Press Release

Minister for Health & Children, Mary Harney, T.D., welcomes improving outcomes and survival rates for cancer patients

Marking the publication of the National Cancer Registry Report ‘Patterns of care and survival of cancer patients in Ireland 1994 to 2001’, the Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D. said

“I welcome the publication of the Report ‘Patterns of care and survival of cancer patients in Ireland 1994 to 2001: timetrends and regional variation for breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancer’. The Report adds significantly to our understanding of survival patterns of care for four major causes of cancer, breast, colorectal, lung and prostate.”

“The Government has made decisions in the last year to move cancer care up to a new level to achieve better outcomes for people in every region of the country. We are making progress in Ireland on cancer care. We are putting hundreds of new staff and substantial new resources into our services. There has been a 70 per cent increase in cancer patients discharged from our hospitals since 1997. Survival rates are improving.”

The Report, funded by the Department of Health and Children, is a follow-up to a Report published in 2004 as part of the development of our new National Cancer Control Strategy.

The main conclusions of the Report include:
•Improvements in survival for breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers, but not lung cancers, were seen at national scale between the periods examined.
•At regional level, there were improvements in all regions for breast and prostate cancers and in most regions for colorectal and lung cancers. •Regional variation in survival is still apparent, as noted in the previous report.
•Trends in treatment appeared to be broadly in line with expectations of greater or better-targeted use of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
•At regional scales, there is still substantial variation in the use of particular treatment modalities.

It is important to note that the Report covers patients diagnosed with cancer up to 2001 only.


The Minister added,

“The Government is committed to making the full range of cancer services available and accessible to cancer patients throughout Ireland. We will fund and organise cancer services, so that patients from each region of the country will benefit equally from top quality cancer care.

This is the key objective of the Government’s National Strategy for Cancer Control, which I published in June 2006.

It is Government policy to ensure that patients, regardless of location, have timely access to high quality and specialised care. Specialisation is crucial to improve outcomes for patients from every region.

This Government is committed to investing significantly in the implementation of the new Strategy. I have made available an additional €20.5m this year for cancer control (screening, acute services and research). This is an increase of 74% on the comparable 2006 investment and includes €3.5m to support the initial implementation of the HSE National Cancer Control Programme.

The Programme will manage, organise and deliver cancer control on a whole population basis. It will have a strong emphasis on prevention and early detection, integrated across primary, hospital, supportive and palliative care.

The Service Plan of the HSE for this year sets out the detailed deliverables of the Programme. This includes the establishment of the leadership team to implement the Programme, including the Director of the Programme and key medical leaders at network level. Clinical leaders in oncology will be appointed to lead the delivery of quality multi-disciplinary care.

The HSE and the Department of Health and Children are also working on the means to implement the national plan for radiation oncology to meet the timeframe of 2011.”

Investment since 1997

Since the implementation of the first National Cancer Strategy in 1997, approximately €1 billion has been invested in cancer services nationally. The Government have invested substantially in all regions to improve cancer survival. The improvements are evidenced in the Report.

Over 100 additional Consultants have been appointed in key areas of cancer care such as Medical Oncology, Radiology, Palliative Care, Histopathology, and Haematology.

An additional 245 clinical nurse specialists were also appointed in the cancer services area. Nearly 94,000 patients (in-patient and day) were discharged from hospital following a diagnosis of cancer in 2005, an increase of nearly 70% over 1997.

Just under 58,000 people were treated as day cases in 2005, an increase of 130% over 1997.

Cancer Screening

Earlier this year, the Minister set up a National Cancer Screening Service Board. This amalgamates BreastCheck and the Irish Cervical Screening Programme (ICSP).

Both BreastCheck and the ICSP will be rolled out nationally this year. The total allocation to the new Service is €33m; this is a 71% increase on the 2006 allocation to the Programmes. The Service will also advise on the implementation of a national colorectal screening programme.

“The findings contained in today’s Report provide an essential baseline for further research which will be conducted by the National Cancer Registry. I particularly welcome the next stage of analyses which will examine the appropriateness of treatment and the possible influence of hospital or surgeon case-loads or specialisation on the survival and quality of care of cancer patients”, the Minister added.