Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: New cancer strategy needed to save lives

Editor's Viewpoint

This is World Cancer Day, and although the very word cancer understandably creates fear and deep uncertainty among so many people and their families, there is still good reason for hope and positivity.

For a whole range of cancers, the survival rates continue to improve, and fortunately we regularly read inspiring stories about the courage of those who have made a recovery, and of the support of their families and friends as well as the medical profession and nursing care.

There is also a greater public awareness about the need for early diagnosis, as well as the lifestyle changes which can help people to lower the risk.

Valuable research, too, is being carried out, with regular breakthroughs in treatment and care.

Today we carry the story of Queen's University scientist Dr Helen Coleman, who has been awarded more than £855,000 from Cancer Research UK for her continuing work.

Her research has been inspired by several family members diagnosed with the disease.

Significantly, there is also debate about the language used concerning cancer. Some dislike the terms "fighting" or "beating" cancer, believing such war-like terms are unhelpful. Such a debate is itself healthy, given that only a few decades ago cancer was talked about in hushed tones because of the dread it engendered.

We are a long way from that now, and have made progress in dealing with many forms of the disease. Here in Northern Ireland it is an illness that unites people from all backgrounds, because we are all at risk and we all know someone who has been affected by it.

It is important we should do what we can to ensure people here have the best possible access to health care for diagnosis and treatment.

The number of people diagnosed is rising, and there is a great need for a new cancer strategy here that would provide a more joined-up approach to people's care and to cut waiting lists.

While the five main local parties support the need for such a strategy, it is shameful that vital decisions on this cannot be taken because our Stormont politicians are not doing what they are paid to do.

It is hard to imagine that any of us voted for such a dereliction of duty by our elected representatives on these literally life and death issues.

Cancer is no respecter of persons, and we need all the help we can get, individually and collectively, to deal with it.

Belfast Telegraph

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