Importance of cancer research highlighted

Has given current generation longer lives
  • Deborah Condon

Research has had a major impact on cancer, with more people surviving the disease today than ever before, the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) has said.

It is gearing up for its biggest annual fundraiser, Daffodil Day, which takes place on March 24. This will be the 30th Daffodil Day to take place and over the last three decades, money raised by this event has allowed key research to be undertaken.

This has led to better ways to detect and treat cancer, as well as more information on how to prevent the disease.

In 1997, four in 10 people with cancer were still alive five years after their diagnosis. Today, that figure has increased to six in 10.

"A survival rate of six in 10 is a huge improvement, but cancer research won't stop until that statistic is 10 in 10. The work of dedicated Irish cancer researchers over the past 30 years and more has given the present generation better, longer lives," commented the ICS's head of research, Dr Robert O'Connor.

He said that when people see the daffodil pin on Daffodil Day, ‘they are given hope of a better outcome and brighter future'.

"The work of today's researchers and Irish patients who partake in clinical research will potentially mean that future generations can live free from the fear of cancer. By donating to Daffodil Day, the public is supporting the life-saving work of these researchers. For that, we encourage everyone to please get involved in Daffodil Day on March 24," Dr O'Connor added.

The ICS highlighted that because of research, the risk of cancer can be reduced. It is now known that four in 10 cancer cases are preventable by adopting lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and quitting smoking.

Research has also led to better rates of detection as a result of various screening programmes. Ireland currently has three national screening programmes - BreastCheck, BowelCheck and CervicalCheck.

BreastCheck alone has screened over 371,000 women and detected more than 5,400 cancers.

Research has also led to better methods of diagnosis and big improvements in treatments, including new drugs, bone marrow transplants and immunotherapy, which is when the immune system is re-engineered to attack cancer cells.

While surviving cancer is paramount, researchers are also increasingly looking at how to improve people's quality of life after cancer.

Thirty years ago, people with cancer had little or no access to psychologists specialising in cancer, and emotional support was minimal. In the last 15 years, three dedicated psycho-oncology departments have been established at St Vincent's University Hospital, St James's Hospital and St Luke's Hospital. Organisations such as the ICS also offer emotional support to people with cancer and their families.

"Cancer research is becoming more focussed on patient-centred care, not just eradicating the cancer. From new initiatives to embed patient and public involvement in cancer research to patient advocate organisations working with government, industry, and academia, we are making progress in putting patients at the heart of cancer research, as well as policy, treatment innovation and care," the ICS insisted.

The charity currently funds more than 100 cancer researchers in Ireland and this would not be possible without the public's generosity on days like Daffodil Day. For more information on this year's event, click here



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