Press Release

New National Clinical Guidelines on Ovarian and Oesophageal Cancer Launched by Minister for Health Simon Harris

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD today (Thursday) launched two new National Clinical Guidelines to help healthcare professionals with the diagnosis, staging and treatment of patients with oesophageal or oesophagogastric junction cancer and the diagnosis and staging of patients with ovarian cancer.

The guidelines were developed by multidisciplinary groups supported by the HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) and quality assured by the Department of Health’s National Clinical Effectiveness Committee (NCEC). The ovarian guideline was co-chaired by Dr Josephine Barry and Dr Ciarán Ó Riain. The oesophageal and oesophagogastric junction cancer guideline was chaired by Professor John Reynolds.

Cancer continues to be a major healthcare challenge worldwide. Ireland has one of the highest rates of both ovarian and oesophageal cancer in Europe with rates of 16.1 and 7.9 per 100,000 respectively, with the incidence of both ovarian and oesophageal cancers projected to rise. The development and implementation of National Clinical Guidelines related to cancer care are underpinned by recommendation 37 in the National Cancer Strategy 2017 – 2026. The National Cancer Strategy places a focus on prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and quality of life.

Speaking at the launch today, Minister Harris said “ We have seen good progress on our National Cancer Strategy, with clear evidence-based policy direction from my Department and strong implementation by the National Cancer Control Programme, and cancer survival rates in Ireland have improved significantly in recent years.

“The Cancer Strategy emphasised the potential to alter the landscape of cancer in Ireland by reducing mortality, and improving survival and quality of life, through enhanced early diagnosis. Rigorously developed National Clinical Guidelines like the ones we are launching today are a means of ensuring that our citizens receive the best possible care, no matter what their medical condition might be or where in the country they are being treated. Importantly for me, they are a means of empowering patients to be informed decision-makers about their own care.

“These new guidelines are a key part of our work in this area and they will now be implemented in full across the health service, helping to improve the quality and safety of treating the disease across Ireland. They are based on the best available evidence and have been informed by a full public consultation and reviewed by international experts. I want to acknowledge the work of the NCEC in advancing patient safety and quality, and the Irish clinical effectiveness agenda, under the chairmanship of Professor Karen Ryan, and also to congratulate the NCCP and all who worked to bring these guidelines to launch today.”

The Co-Chair of the Guideline Development Group Dr Josephine Barry, Consultant Radiologist, Cork University Hospital for Ovarian cancer commented “This document offers health professionals up to date guidelines for best practice in the diagnosis and staging of patients with suspected ovarian cancer and also focuses on genetic aspects of ovarian cancer”.

The other co-chair Dr Ciarán Ó Riain, Consultant Histopathologist, St James’s Hospital , Dublin added “Ovarian cancer may be the first indication of two of the most common inherited syndromes that predispose to development of a number of different cancer types. This guideline recommends offering appropriate subgroups of women testing for presence of a mutation in the BRCA gene. This provides an opportunity to engage in true shared decision making and offer patients an informed choice to manage their own health risks according to their wishes and values. It provides us with an opportunity to take a visionary approach to the health of women with ovarian cancer and their families”

Joan Moore and Valerie Timmons, members of the Guideline Development Group representing the Irish Society of Gynaecological Oncology Public and Patient Involvement (ISGOPPI) commented “It was an honour to be given the opportunity by ISGOPPI to represent current and future patients on the National Cancer Control’s Guideline Development Group and hopefully this work will lead to earlier diagnosis and improved outcomes for women with ovarian cancer.”

The Chair of the Guideline Development Group for Oesophageal/OGJ cancer, Professor John Reynolds said “The incidence of oesophageal cancer has markedly increased in Ireland and the Western World, with obesity, tobacco, and severe acid reflux the main predisposing factors. A diagnosis of oesophageal cancer is greatly feared, as it commonly presents at a late stage, and treatment, in particular surgery, is a major complex undertaking. These Guidelines represent a major multidisciplinary undertaking by the National Cancer Control Programme between oesophageal specialists and patient representatives. It details advances in staging, diagnosis, and treatment that define and underpin a modern standard of care across all designated Centres in Ireland. Encouragingly, the guidelines highlight recent significant advances in prevention, early diagnosis and treatment that provide real optimism for improved cure rates.”

Dr Eve O’ Toole, Lead for Guidelines in the National Cancer Control Programme, said “These evidence based guidelines integrate the best current evidence with clinical expertise and patient values to provide recommendations for the delivery of care”


Notes to the Editor

The guidelines are available on the Department of Health website.

National Clinical Effectiveness Committee (NCEC)

Clinical effectiveness is a key component of patient safety. The integration of best evidence in service provision, through clinical effectiveness processes, promotes healthcare that is up to date, effective and consistent. Clinical effectiveness processes include guidelines, audit and practice guidance.

NCEC Terms of Reference

1. Provide strategic leadership for the national clinical effectiveness agenda.
2. Contribute to national patient safety and quality improvement agendas.
3. Publish standards for clinical practice guidance.
4. Publish guidance for National Clinical Guidelines and National Clinical Audit.
5. Prioritise and quality assure National Clinical Guidelines and National Clinical Audit.
6. Commission National Clinical Guidelines and National Clinical Audit.
7. Align National Clinical Guidelines and National Clinical Audit with implementation levers.
8. Report periodically on the implementation and impact of National Clinical Guidelines and the performance of National Clinical Audit.
9. Establish sub-committees for NCEC work-streams.
10. Publish an Annual Report.

Further information about the NCEC and National Clinical Guidelines is available on the Department of Health website.

HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP)

The NCCP was established in 2007 to ensure that all elements of cancer policy are delivered to the maximum possible extent. NCCP continues to reorganise cancer services to achieve better outcomes for patients. Cancer control aims to prevent cancer, treat cancer, and increase survival and quality of life for those who develop cancer, by converting the knowledge gained through research, surveillance and outcome evaluation into strategies and actions.

Further information about the NCCP is available on the HSE website.