Minister for Health launches new National Cancer Survivorship Needs Assessment: Living With and Beyond Cancer in Ireland

August 19, 2019 0

There are over 173,000 cancer survivors in Ireland, almost 4% of the Irish population,and this number is set to increase. Minister for Health Simon Harris, T.D has today launched the National Cancer Survivorship Needs Assessment, ‘Living With and Beyond Cancer in Ireland’.

The Needs Assessment outlines the key challenges involved and actions to be undertaken to better address the needs of cancer patients and their families.

Speaking at the event, the Minister stated:

More than 170,000 people in Ireland today have experienced a cancer diagnosis. Thankfully, our survival rates are increasing and while that is welcome, it brings its own challenges. We must ensure we provide comprehensive cancer care for patients in Ireland who are living with and beyond cancer. It is crucial that we provide the support required to allow people to manage the impact this has on them, their family, work and society.

Jerome Coffey, Director of the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), opened the event, stating that,

The third National Cancer Strategy recommends investment into survivorship services to provide optimal care for cancer patients. The NCCP is leading on the implementation of the recommendations through their Survivorship Programme.

Louise Mullen the Lead for Cancer Survivorship in the NCCP acknowledges that not everyone identifies with the term survivor

Definitions of cancer survivorship differ but it is broadly accepted that cancer survivorship begins at the time of diagnosis and continues until end of life and is often referred to as ‘living with and beyond cancer’. Cancer patients and their advocates often tell us that they feel ‘set adrift’ after their active treatment for cancer is complete. This is a time that people need support for self-management and alleviation of physical and psychological symptoms which have persisted.”

Three supporting pieces of research helped to inform the content of the Needs Assessment and the author of each provided an overview of their work as part of the launch:

  • Dr Peter Barrett – Survivorship after Childhood Cancer: Health Needs Assessment 2018;
  • Professor Josephine Hegarty – Acute Sector Cancer Survivorship Services in the Irish Context;
  • Irish Cancer Society and the National Cancer Registry of Ireland – The Unmet Needs of Cancer Survivors in Ireland: A Scoping Review 2019.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Harris said,

A focus on quality of life, rather than ‘just surviving’ is a key concern of patients.

The Minister continued,

I believe that the Cancer Survivorship Needs Assessment is a fundamental pillar for ensuring patients achieve the optimal quality of life following a diagnosis of cancer.

The Minister acknowledged the work of staff at the NCCP and a number of healthcare professionals in progressing the project.

The Minister also praised the role of patients in developing this survivorship policy.

It is fundamental patients have a voice in the delivery of health service and I am so pleased patient representatives fully participated on the NCCP’s Survivorship Working Group. I thank them for their on-going contribution and commitment to the development of cancer services. Patient input had a key role in the development of the Strategy and now, through the Cancer Patient Advisory Committee in particular, patients assist in the oversight of its implementation.

Dr Conan Donnelly, Research Manager, National Cancer Registry Ireland and co-author of ‘Unmet Needs of Cancer Survivors: A Scoping Review 2019’, said:

The Irish research literature paints a picture of multi-faceted and complex needs among patients living with and beyond cancer across a spectrum of cancer types. It is essential we document the patient experience to ensure the planning and evaluation of survivorship services reflects these unmet needs.

The full text of the National Cancer Strategy is available on the Department website at: https://health.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/National-Cancer-Strategy-2017-2026.pdf