Hard-hitting new campaign highlights "cancer epidemic" facing Ireland

The Irish Cancer Society says that one person is diagnosed with cancer every three minutes in Ireland

Hard-hitting new campaign highlights "cancer epidemic" facing Ireland

Dr Antoinette Perry at the launch of the ‘I want to get Cancer’ campaign, 04-01-2017. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

The Irish Cancer Society has launched a hard-hitting new campaign as new figures reveal that by 2020, one in two people will be facing a diagnosis within their lifetime.

The startling ‘I want to get Cancer’ campaign is urging people not to ignore the signs and make use of the supports available.

With one person diagnosed with cancer every three minutes in Ireland, the campaign highlights the steps everyone can take to reduce their chances of developing cancer in the future.

Gráinne O’Rourke, head of communications for the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) said the campaign has to be provocative in order to save lives.

“Some people have been startled and upset,” she said. “But hearing your doctor say the words ‘you have cancer’ is far more upsetting.”

“For too long we have spoken about cancer in hushed tones and with a sense of fear and avoidance. Some people even think that cancer is inevitable. We want to change that.”

“There are things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer through lifestyle choices, and through research, early diagnosis, screening and better treatments, if you do get cancer, there is hope,” said Ms O’Rourke.

“At present, there are over 150,000 cancer survivors in Ireland, and that number is rising all the time.”

The campaign was launched this morning by well known cancer survivors including broadcaster Louise McSharry and former international rugby player Tony Ward.

“Being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 31 was shocking, but it opened my eyes,” said Ms McSharry. “A disease I had never dreamed I would experience suddenly took over my life. I quickly realised that cancer knows no boundaries – it can happen to anyone at any time.”

“Everyone thinks they’re aware of cancer, but it’s often not until your life is impacted by it that you begin to pay attention to what it really means to have this terrible disease. We have to change our attitudes to cancer. We have to talk about it and raise awareness.

“I’m lucky – I got out the right side of cancer, and now have a 3 month old son, something I didn’t think would be possible after my diagnosis.”

According to the ICS, advances in cancer research mean that 6 out of 10 cancer patients now survive to 5 years and beyond – double the survival rate of 40 years ago.

The society said that four out of ten cancers can be prevented through lifestyle management.

By eating healthily, watching weight and alcohol intake, taking regular exercise and not smoking, it is possible to take huge steps in lowering the risk of cancer. 

Ray McDermott, Consultant Medical Oncologist at Tallaght and St Vincent’s University Hospitals said he has seen hundreds of cancer patients over the years.

“So often the look on their faces is the same - fear, dread, worry, even anger,” he said. “They want to Get Cancer as much as I do.”

“Survival rates for individual cancers vary hugely. For example, while 90% of prostate cancer patients will survive for 5 years of more, just 13% of lung cancer patients will be as lucky. That’s why we have to Get Cancer.”

To speak to a cancer nurse on any aspect of cancer, you can contact The Irish Cancer Society’s Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700, email cancernurseline@irishcancer.ie or drop into one of 13 Daffodil Centres in hospitals nationwide.

You can also get advice on the ICS website at Cancer.ie