Michael Noonan urges care improvements for rare cancers

Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s department officials have ruled out any change to taxation policy in April

Eilish O'Regan

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan, who is recovering from cancer, said he would like to see more reorganisation of services to improve the care of patients with rare forms of the disease.

Mr Noonan (71) recently disclosed that he had suffered from sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that grows in connective tissues. He underwent radiotherapy and had a cancerous lump removed.

Yesterday he opened the first meeting of the Irish Sarcoma Group, which aims to improve the care of patients with the disease. Unlike other more common cancers, sarcoma does not have the same level of hospital centralisation of diagnostics, treatment and follow-up in one hospital.

He told the gathering that "very significant progress has been made by the National Cancer Control Programme over the last number of years by centralising services and pooling expertise".

However, he said that from his own experience he understood how critical it was for patients with the more rare tumours, such as sarcoma, to be treated in this way.

"This can only happen through the development of a coordinated national service and so I am delighted to support this meeting, the initiation of the Irish Sarcoma Group and its website." he added.

The Limerick city TD told how he found the lump last February and after it was diagnosed he had five weeks of radiotherapy in St Luke's Hospital in Dublin to shrink the tumour.

He underwent surgery in May to have it removed and the prognosis is good with a low risk of recurrence.

Dr Charles Gillham, a consultant radiation oncologist in St Luke's Hospital, has now teamed up with other colleagues with an interest in the disease to set up the organisation.

He said: "It is hoped that this meeting and the formation of the group will build on the progress already made and help standardise and strengthen pathways for a national service; creating one that parallels the best available internationally.

"We have also launched the website www.irishsarcomagroup.ie which is aimed at raising awareness among the public, general practitioners and hospital doctors.


"The key messages from the meeting is to highlight the importance of centralising services, as has happened in other more common cancers.

"There is a wealth of international literature demonstrating that the optimum outcomes for patients with sarcoma are when they are treated by specialised multi-disciplinary teams in large, high volume units; incorporating diagnostics, treatment and follow-up.

"Due to their rarity and the numerous ways in which the disease may present, developing a national service creates significant challenges."