Ireland’s cancer survival rate set to improve

Ireland’s cancer rates are likely to move from being among the worst to the best internationally, according to experts, writes Genevieve Carberry in today’s Irish Times.

IN THE next decade Ireland’s cancer survival rates could move from being among the worst to being among the best, a health forum has been told. The Leading Killer by 2020? Cancer in Ireland was the title of the latest in the series of Pfizer/Irish Times health debates, which took place at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin last week.

It was chaired by Irish Times assistant editor Fintan O’Toole. The panellists were Dr Dominic O’Brannagain, consultant in palliative medicine, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, John McCormack, chief executive of the Irish Cancer Society, Noelle Duddy, spokeswoman for Co-operating for Cancer Care North West, and Malcolm Kell, a consultant surgeon in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and Breastcheck.

Mortality from cancer in Ireland was higher than in comparable countries because Ireland had started putting a comprehensive cancer control programme in place only in 2006, Mr McCormack said. The strategy would “hopefully bring Ireland’s survival rates up to the best in the world” for the four main cancers.

Mr Kell said that in 10 years’ time, Ireland would see the benefits of having a national breast cancer screening programme and survival rates would be similar to those in Britain and north America.

It would take a decade to see the benefits, but Ireland’s breast cancer infrastructure, access to care and level of treatment was equitable to comparable countries, he said.

The difference in morbidity in Ireland compared to other countries was probably because Ireland was a late converter to the multidisciplinary approach in managing and treating cancers, Dr O’Brannagain said.

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