Wednesday 28 September 2016

Cancer death rate in Ireland is the third highest across the EU

Published 04/02/2016 | 02:30

Donal Buggy, head of services at the Irish Cancer Society. Photo: Frank McGrath
Donal Buggy, head of services at the Irish Cancer Society. Photo: Frank McGrath

The death rate from cancer in Ireland is the third highest in Europe, according to new figures.

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In total, 30pc of all deaths in Ireland are due to cancer, compared to 26pc across the EU as a whole, statistics compiled by Eurostat revealed.

The top two countries for cancer death rates are Slovenia (32pc) and the Netherlands (31pc).

In contrast, cancer accounts for less than one fifth of deaths in Bulgaria (17pc) and Lithuania (19pc).

Across Europe, cancer is responsible for 37pc of deaths among people under 65, compared to 39pc in Ireland.

And among the over-65s, the death rate for Europe from cancer is 23pc, but it is 27pc in Ireland.

The report points out that in every EU country, fatal cancers killed more men than women, with the highest gender gaps seen in Greece and Spain.

Donal Buggy, head of services at the Irish Cancer Society, said the figures reinforce the importance of early detection on what is World Cancer Day.

"It means there are more treatment options available to the patient and it can save your life," he said.

"Cancer can be treated once it is diagnosed early."

However, he warned: "Inequalities exist at every step of the cancer journey and people from disadvantaged backgrounds have fewer GPs in their area, wait longer for vital tests for cancer and are less able to cope with the cost of cancer.

"This has caused a cancer gap between rich and poor.

"We will be asking the public to support our General Election goals which, if implemented by the next Government, will help close the cancer gap and will help ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to live a healthy life."

The most prevalent cancer leading to death in the EU was lung cancer. In Ireland, lung cancer accounts for 21pc of deaths from the disease compared to 26pc in Hungary, followed by Belgium, Denmark, Greece and the Netherlands.

The highest rate of deaths from breast cancer was observed in Cyprus and Malta at 21pc, compared to 17pc in Ireland.

Meanwhile, a new study by the National Cancer Registry in the Journal of Psycho-oncology has found that head and neck cancer can have a considerable financial impact on carers.

Head and neck cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer worldwide and can cause disfigurement, either directly or indirectly as a result of medical treatment.

It can also lead to substantial problems with swallowing and speaking.

It is a cancer that tends to be diagnosed in older people and often in people who are from poorer backgrounds.

The study found that supporting some patients with head and neck cancer can have a serious impact on carers' finances.

Diagnosis

This financial impact often begins soon after the patient's diagnosis, with carers having to pay for travel and commuting costs to and from hospital, said researcher Dr Myles Balfe.

They sometimes have to give up work or reduce their working hours when their relative or friend begins treatment.

Patients with head and neck cancer often have difficulty returning to full-time work after treatment, which further reduces the income coming into the carers' household.

Carers who have pre-existing financial commitments, such as mortgages or children's college expenses, can find themselves in very difficult financial situations.

Understandably, this causes great distress and anxiety because of the reduced household income, he pointed out. Several are unsure of entitlements.

Irish Independent

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