Sunday 15 September 2019

Cancer survivors 'need help dealing with health after care'

Supports: Dr Jerome Coffey and Louise Mullen of the National Cancer Control Programme with Health Minister Simon Harris, and Averil Power, CEO of Irish Cancer Society, at the launch
Supports: Dr Jerome Coffey and Louise Mullen of the National Cancer Control Programme with Health Minister Simon Harris, and Averil Power, CEO of Irish Cancer Society, at the launch
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

More support is needed for people who are struggling to cope with the physical and emotional legacy of beating cancer, a new report has warned.

About 173,000 people in Ireland have experienced a cancer diagnosis - and many are benefiting from successful treatment.

However, although the majority of cancer survivors live well, around one in four has one or more physical or psychological consequences, a HSE report launched by Health Minister Simon Harris revealed.

The effects following active treatment can include male impotence, the condition lymphoedema which causes long-term swelling in the body's tissues, a lack of access to prosthetics, and infertility.

"A large amount of routine cancer survivorship care is delivered in follow-up clinics in acute hospitals. This care is focused on surveillance and there can be unmet or undetected needs for physical or psychological care," said the report 'Living With and Beyond Cancer in Ireland'.

Among those who can lose out are childhood cancer survivors, who are growing in number with 218 new cases of the disease diagnosed in under-19s annually.

"They are more likely to be hospitalised during follow-up than the general population and they may need long-term monitoring of risks of late effects of the disease.

"They also have higher levels of psychological distress and as well as a greater burden of cognitive problems later in life."

Commenting on the report, Mr Harris said the recommendations would be implemented and a working group was now being set up to look at improvements in the service. He said fertility was an issue and his department was examining how to use a fund of €1m to provide financial support to women seeking fertility treatment, not just after cancer.

He said: "A focus on quality of life, rather than 'just surviving' is a key concern of patients." More services can be delivered at local level, he added.

The Irish Cancer Society said there was an expectation people would return to "normal life" after their treatment but the reality was often quite different.

Irish Independent

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