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We Are Making a Difference in Cancer Prevention and Control
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland News
Pink October 2016
Grange Park school children in Bangor get in on the action
Runners at the Cancer Focus NI pink colour run to raise money for breast cancer research at Queen’s University Belfast
Cancer Focus NI helps men bounce back from life's challenges
Guest speakers discussed life's challenges and barriers for men and how to cope with them at this year's annual Cancer Focus Northern Ireland Men's Health Conference in Antrim
The theme for this year's conference, attended by over 80 delegates, was 'Resilience' and reviewed practical strategies that build resilience and allow men to bounce back.
The event was sponsored by MediCare Pharmacy Group, Cancer Focus NI's corporate charity partner, and aimed to update healthcare professional and others with an interest in men's health and cancer issues.
The keynote speaker was psychologist Shane Martin (photo) who usedshis skills to help people empower themselves and enhance the quality of their lives both privately and professionally.
"It is vital to promote a psychology of health, happiness and resilience among people who have been through a difficult time, either physically or mentally," he said.
"My message to men is that we have an innate capacity to cope better through the challenges of life. In recent years scientists have discovered more about what we can do to thrive despite adversity and how we can sustain great levels of inner-happiness in our lives."
Dr Eileen Morgan, from the NI Cancer Registry, spoke on cancer trends in men, and the roles of lifestyle, ageing and wider issues. She stressed that improving lifestyles was key to lowering the risk of getting cancer.
Fiona McGlue, Cancer Focus NI's health promotion officer, discussed the charity's Keeping Well Service for local men, looking at settings for health promotion work and building relationships with pharmacies to help improve health in local communities. As many as 120,000 people visit pharmacies in Northern Ireland each day.
Other speakers include Gavin Boyd, from The Rainbow Project, a personal story on living with addiction and a nurse who spoke about health care at Magilligan Prison.
Colin Deehan, Professional Services Manager, MediCare Pharmaceutical Group, said: "We are delighted to sponsor this year's Men's Health Conference. We have an extremely productive and successful partnership with Cancer Focus NI and together we have been making strong strides towards improving health care in local communities.
"Cancer Focus NI Keeping Well vans regularly bring health checks directly to customers and staff at our pharmacies across Northern Ireland, and holds health awareness days to highlight the signs and symptoms of cancer and how to adopt healthier lifestyles.
"This conference, sharing ideas, innovations and best practice, is an important part of this outreach work and highlights our commitment to health care in the community."
The charity's Keeping Well van was also available at the conference to showcase Cancer Focus NI's services.
We are delighted that Liz Atkinson, our Head of Care Services for the last nine years, won the health category for the Belfast Telegraph's Woman of the Year Awards.
Liz's commitment and determination to help those affected by cancer spans decades. She originally trained as a nurse specialising in cancer nursing and palliative care and later moved into senior management roles in the voluntary sector. She is currently Vice Chair of European Cancer Leagues Patient Support Working Group, working towards improving access to services and support for cancer patients at a national level.
Liz is also the force behind Cancer Focus NI's many patient support services such as Sing for Life community choir (a partnership with the Crescent Arts Centre), art therapy, the popular family support service, Zest for Life and Beauty for Life, among others.
Watch the video here!
Cancer Focus NI also scooped the Best Northern Ireland campaign at the UK Public Affairs Awards for our Equal Access to Cancer Drugs Campaign and came top in the Workplace Excellence category in the Irish News Workplace and Employment Awards, hosted by comedian Patrick Kielty.
At the Institute of Fundraising awards we won the Event of the Year for Up the Lagan in a Bubble and our generous supporter Sarah Lowry won Young Fundraiser of the Year. Carlisle Fresh Foods were highly commended in the Partnership of the Year section, and the Rusty Nuts challenge was also highly commended.
We were also finalists in the Inspiring Leader of the Year in the CO3 Chief Officers 3rd Sector Celebrating Champions Awards and our Chief Executive's PA Julie McConville was a highly commended runner-up at the PA and Office Manager Awards.
Cancer Focus NI urges fresh vision for cancer in Northern Ireland
Leading charity Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has called on the Executive to build a fresh vision for cancer and end the complacency that accepts poorer outcomes for local people.
Launching its Manifesto at Stormont, Cancer Focus NI's Chief Executive, Roisin Foster (picture), warned that patient outcomes are on a par with those in some eastern European countries for certain cancers.
Speaking at the launch, Mrs Foster said: "We are asking the NI Executive to declare a fresh vision for cancer - one that has ambitious and measurable targets and that will take the fight against cancer forward in Northern Ireland. The recently reviewed Cancer Service Framework is not a substitute for a comprehensive vision and an overarching strategy to fight cancer."
Among the areas of concern raised in Cancer Focus NI's Manifesto are:
• Patients in Northern Ireland continue to be denied access to life extending cancer drugs that are available in other parts of the UK
• Cancer waiting times have worsened, consistently failing to meet ministerial targets
• Cancer cases are projected to rise considerably - by 2035 they are set to rise by 65% among men to 7,181 and by 63% for women to 6,967
• A number of important public health initiatives have yet to be implemented including minimum unit pricing of alcohol and setting a target date to achieve a 'Tobacco Free Northern Ireland'
• Public awareness of common signs and symptoms of cancer continues to be lower in Northern Ireland than other developed countries
Mrs Foster said: "Cancer Focus NI recognises the positive steps that have been taken during the current Assembly's lifetime, which are aimed at reducing the burden of cancer. They include the Tobacco Retailers Act which seeks to prevent young people taking up smoking, support for standardised packaging of tobacco products, and the launch of the Be Cancer Aware campaign, increasing public awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer.
"We are urging Government to produce an ambitious strategy that sets out how it intends to make Northern Ireland world class for cancer prevention and cancer outcomes. We have seen this approach recently in England through 'Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England'. People here deserve no less."
Tracy Martin (picture), from Banbridge, is a breast cancer survivor who lost her father, Brian Coburn, to the disease. A dedicated campaigner for a better deal for cancer patients, Tracy said: "The statistics on cancer diagnosis, survival and death due to this horrendous disease fill me with dread.
"Around half of us will get cancer or be affected by it. I urge our politicians to make cancer their priority. Pledge to make a difference, and make it now. Get Northern Ireland back in line with the rest of the UK in its cancer treatments."
Need for more care for cancer patients
Research by the NI Cancer Registry at Queen's University Belfast, and funded by Cancer Focus NI, has highlighted the need for more support for local cancer patients.
The report, Dying with Cancer – Perspectives of Bereaved Relatives and Friends, has identified key factors influencing what enables cancer patients to die at home.
It says these factors need to be addressed urgently as the number of cancer cases in NI is set to rise by 66% over the next 20 years.
Information from 467 relatives/carers of cancer patients revealed that while almost three quarters of patients (74.7%) said they wanted to die at home, only over a third (38.2%) actually did. Another 41.1% died in hospital, 12.0% in a hospice and 8.8% in a care home.
The report calls for:
• more training in good communication about end of life care
• a key health care worker linking with the patient and family
• more studies on how to support carers in the home
You can see the full report on www.qub.ac.uk/nicr
All's well with Well Aware
The Cancer Focus Northern Ireland Well Aware service – which aims to raise cancer awareness and improve the health of over 60s - has had a very successful first two years.
A new independent evaluation shows that the charity's staff visited 105 venues and 1,037 people have had health checks. Another 1,386 attended health promotion sessions.
The service visits over 60s - a group with a higher risk of cancer – in supported living schemes, residential homes and community groups bringing free health checks and raising awareness about signs and symptoms of cancer.
Well Aware is a partnership between us and Oaklee Trinity (soon to be renamed Choice Housing) and is funded by the Big Lottery Fund for five years. Over the next three years, Well Aware will focus particularly on men, people with cognitive impairment and smokers working in sheltered accommodation.
Shining a light on outdoor worker sun safety
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in Northern Ireland, with around 3,550 cases every year. Today the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland launched a new sun safety initiative to help people who work outdoors protect themselves from skin damage due to sun exposure. Employers that sign up to the scheme will receive a sun safety resource pack which provides guidance on skin cancer prevention and early detection
Farmers, builders, grounds staff and postal workers are just some of the people at higher risk of sun damage due to the length of time they spend working outdoors.
Ian Young, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, said "We have signed up to using the new policy and resources as we want to protect our workers' health. Skin cancer is a real concern to our employees who work outside. This new initiative will improve knowledge and awareness of sun safety issues in the outdoor work sector considerably. Everyone who works outdoors needs to think about sun protection, even on cooler, breezy days."
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, said: "We are delighted to be able to launch this new initiative which takes the form of a sun safety resource pack for employers and employees which provides guidance on skin cancer prevention and early detection."
Speaking at the event today Finance Minister Simon Hamilton added: "Skin cancer is an increasingly serious, and largely preventative, public health issue. DHSSPS published a ten-year Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy and Action Plan in 2011. The strategy is relevant to the population as a whole, but also identifies outdoor workers as a priority group requiring particular action. Today's launch is another important step towards achieving the goal of reducing the incidence of skin cancer, and deaths from it, among people in Northern Ireland."
Pictured at the launch are (L-R) Ian Young, Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council, Des Campbell, Forest Service, Health Minister Simon Hamilton and Peter Reavey, Graham Construction, who have all signed up.
Proud to be a Quitter - 2015
Proud to be a Quitter was the theme of this year's Northern Ireland No Smoking Day, which was held on March 11.
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland called on all smokers to make this the day they stub out their habit for good. Hundreds of people attended events organised to and to mark the annual event.
In Northern Ireland, 22% of the adult population smokes – and that isn't counting the thousands of under 18s who are hooked from an early age.
The statistics show that smokers are four times more likely to stop if they get help. Cancer Focus NI has been at the forefront of providing that support for more than 30 years and consistently achieves a 68% quit rate in four weeks.
Cancer prevention officer Judith West says: "Over the years we've motivated thousands of local people to beat this destructive addiction. Cancer Focus NI takes its clinics and award-winning stop smoking specialists into workplaces, schools, colleges, GP surgeries and other community venues all over Northern Ireland – anywhere we're need.
"We provide Nicotine Replacement Therapy, advice on medication and tips on how to break your habit. We look at overcoming the fear of quitting, coping with cravings, managing stress, avoiding weight gain and adjusting to a better lifestyle through confidential weekly one-to-one meetings over a 12 week period.
"Giving up smoking is the most important thing you can do to improve your health. Smoking is by far the most preventable cause of cancer, accounting for more than one in four cancer deaths and nearly a fifth of all cancer cases.
"The benefits of quitting are enormous – just 20 minutes after your last cigarette your blood pressure and pulse return to normal. Quitting is better for your looks and your wallet too. There's every reason in the world to give it a go – you'll be so proud of yourself and so will your family and friends."
Smokers can get information and advice by visiting www.want2stop.info to order a Quit Fit free of charge and get information on local services.
'If in doubt, check it out'
Cancer Focus NI used Mouth Cancer Awareness Month (November) to encourage people in towns across Northern Ireland to be aware of the early signs of mouth cancer and to seek medical help if they have any concerns.
In Northern Ireland, 160 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer every year, with one third dying from the disease. Latest figures show that the number of cases of mouth cancer in Northern Ireland has increased by two thirds in the last decade.
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention, Cancer Focus NI, said, "During November worked to raise public awareness of risk factors and the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer. Because many people aren't aware of the early warning signs many cases of mouth cancers are detected at a late stage, which often results in lower chances of survival. Early detection means much better survival rates.
"In recent years Cancer Focus NI has trained over 300 local dentists on the issue of mouth cancer and the importance of providing stop smoking support to their patients. Regular dental check-ups allow the dentist to look for any early warning signs of mouth cancer."
Mouth cancer can appear in different forms, most often as a painless ulcer that doesn't heal. Gerry said, "It is important to examine your mouth on a regular basis. If you have an ulcer that hasn't healed after three weeks, or any unusual changes such as a red or white patch in your mouth, you should arrange an appointment with your dentist or GP.
The main risk factors for mouth cancer are smoking and drinking alcohol. At least three out four cases could be prevented by quitting smoking and drinking less alcohol.
Gerry added, "As the majority of patients diagnosed with mouth cancer are smokers, our advice is to stop smoking as soon as possible. Help is available for anyone who wants to quit and smokers can quadruple their chances of success if they combine stop smoking support services with pharmacological therapies. Cancer Focus NI has provided almost 50 clinics supported by the Public Health Agency in the last year and has helped over 65% of those attending to stop smoking within four weeks.
"The message is clear – stop smoking, reduce your intake of alcohol, eat a healthy diet with at least five daily servings of fruit and vegetables, and remember that early diagnosis can really make the difference. So make sure you visit a dentist and check your mouth regularly - it might just save your life."
The unique Well Being Cookbook has been created by Cancer Focus Northern Ireland and is packed with need-to-know tips to help cancer patients with their recovery and to help them stay well in the future.
The cookbook, which makes an excellent Christmas gift, was written by Jeanne Rankin (photo) along with Cancer Focus NI staff members Deirdre Conlon and Niamh McDaid.
Although the cookbook is geared towards cancer patients, it has something for everyone. In addition to the host of tasty recipes and advice on nutrition, Jeanne has created a special well-being section on breathing and relaxation techniques to help calm the mind and de-stress the body.
Deirdre Conlon, Care Services Manager, Cancer Focus NI, said: "There are many different ideas and theories about diet and cancer and during and after diagnosis you may become even more aware of what you eat and drink.
"When you're going through any type of cancer treatment, eating a nutritious, balanced diet can be hard to do, especially if you have problems with side effects or you just don't feel well.
"The most important thing is to keep up your strength, which may mean changing your diet. The information and recipes in our book will help you in a practical way to eat well and keep up your energy levels."
Jeanne said: "As a trained chef I know the value of good food, prepared simply. Hopefully we have chosen simple recipes that are easy to make and will not seem too much of an effort at times when your energy is low. And the togetherness that can be felt when good food is shared and enjoyed with family and friends can offer unique inner healing through the act of 'breaking bread'."
There are sections on fighting fatigue, simple comfort foods, calorie boosters and sweet things to tempt your appetite when you're feeling low. And there are tips on nutrition, food labelling and food safety, all vitally important when you're living with cancer."
Recipes include old favourites such as hearty vegetable soup and salmon and leek tart along with quinoa salad, vegetable frittata, blueberry pancakes and chai tea.
Pink October 2014
Belfast City Hall turned pink
Model Ashleigh Coyle held a Girls' Night In for breast cancer research at Queen's University (pictured in the background)
Fantastic day at Stormont on Tuesday handing over 24,000 pledges of support for our access to cancer drugs campaign to Health Minister Jim Wells. Our chief exec Roisin Foster (left) also had a private meeting with First Minister Peter Robinson, who spoke with cancer patient Allister Murphy (second right) to hear of his experiences first hand.
Huge thanks to everyone who supported our petition - we are staggered by the response - and people are still signing up! Thank you all.
Join in at www.equalaccessni.org
Heath Minister Jim Wells (r) receives over 24,000 pledges of support for our equal access campaign at Stormont. Presenting the petition are (l-r) cancer patients Allister Murphy and Vera Saunderson, and Cancer Focus NI chief executive Roisin Foster.
Mr Wells said: "I want to thank Cancer Focus NI for bringing the Equal Access petition to Stormont. Let me stress that I empathise entirely with patients undergoing treatment for cancer and other serious conditions and want to assure them that my aim is to ensure they receive the most effective treatment possible."
More info here
Health Minister Jim Wells accepts the Cancer Focus NI petition from Chief Executive Roisin Foster
Launch of new campaign calling for Equal Access to cancer drugs
Leading cancer charity Cancer Focus Northern Ireland is calling on the public to pledge their support for Equal Access to life-extending cancer drugs for patients in Northern Ireland in a new campaign.
Cancer Focus NI today launched the three month campaign in partnership with the Daily Mirror and with the support of 14 local charities. The campaign aims to secure 10,000 pledges of support via email, letters and postcards which will be delivered to Health Minister Edwin Poots at Stormont this autumn.
There are currently 38 cancer drugs available to patients in England that are not readily available to patients in Northern Ireland. Anyone who would like to pledge their support for equality of access for local patients should visit www.equalaccessni.org. The Daily Mirror is also delivering 70,000 petition postcards to readers across Northern Ireland.
Cancer Focus NI has been a driving force in the campaign to overhaul the current system to fund life-extending cancer medicines here.
Chief Executive, Roisin Foster, said: "Cancer Focus NI has been concerned for some time that local cancer patients are being denied access to life-extending drugs that are currently available in England and Scotland, and will soon be available in Wales.
"The purpose of this campaign is to ensure that the most effective drugs will be made available to local cancer patients in their time of need.
"The Health Minister has indicated that he will hold a review of the cancer drug approval process in Northern Ireland, which is a move in the right direction. However, patients do not want an open ended review - they want decisive action to improve access to drugs that could extend their lives, improve their quality of life and ease symptoms.
"There is much work to be done and politicians, patients groups, clinicians and drug companies will need to work together to get the best outcome for cancer patients. We hope a strong vote will persuade our politicians to act sooner rather than later."
Stormont group says more cancers could be prevented
Almost 12,800 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with cancer each year and a significant number of these could be prevented through greater awareness, a new report from the All Party Group on Cancer (APGC) at Parliament Buildings, Belfast, reveals.
The report highlights why cancer remains a major public health issue and the leading cause of death in Northern Ireland. It calls for legislative changes and a range of measures to be implemented with support from the statutory, voluntary, public and private sectors.
The APGC is made up of 18 Members of the Legislative Asembly (MLAs), a cross-party group, and aims to reduce the impact of cancer on the local community. The APGC heard evidence on a range of issues from patients, clinicians and researchers from the voluntary, statutory and public sectors.
The Group's Report makes recommendations on access to cancer drugs in Northern Ireland, the impact of welfare reform, policies to control tobacco and alcohol, inequalities in men's health and the role of primary health care in cancer prevention.
The Group calls on the NI Assembly to provide leadership and financial support to improve both population health and cancer services. Among the APGC's recommendations are:
• Standardise packaging for tobacco and prohibiting smoking in private vehicles
• Implement changes in relation to alcohol pricing, health warnings and advertising
• Ensure training and support is available for practice nurses and GPs to deliver advice and information on cancer prevention messages in primary care settings
• DHSSPS and the Executive to work in partnership with the voluntary, statutory, private and public sectors to develop a strategy to improve men's health and lower cancer incidence and mortality rates
• Take steps to ensure equity of access to cancer drugs in line with the rest of the UK
• Ensure that cancer patients are signposted to welfare advice as a routine part of their treatment
APGC Chairman Tom Buchanan MLA said: "Cancer is a disease which has left its mark on many families throughout Northern Ireland and is a major issue for the Health Service.
"Around 245 people each week receive the dreaded news that they have been diagnosed with cancer and on average it claims the lives of 4,000 people each year. While survival rates are increasing through intensive research and improved treatments, much more needs to be done to help and support people living with this long term illness."
Vice Chair Cathal Ó hOisín MLA said: "Our lifestyle is an important factor in the prevention of cancer and while we cannot change our genetic makeup, we can take steps to lower the risk of cancer by following a healthy lifestyle.
"The APGC has already been instrumental in using its influence to improve services and will continue to raise awareness through public, professional and political avenues to help improve cancer services and develop policies to reduce the impact of cancer on our communities."
Roisin Foster, Chief Executive of Cancer Focus NI, which holds the secretariat for the Group, said: "Cancer Focus NI's mission is to decrease the burden that cancer imposes on our society, and the financial burden on our health service and on our economy, but above all the burden of ill-health and loss placed on individuals and their families.
"One of the approaches we take to our work is to raise public awareness of cancer - how we can lower the incidence of cancer and how we can best support people living with the disease. Central to this is effective public health policy and a commitment to continuous improvement in the range of treatment and services available to women, men and children with cancer in Northern Ireland.
"Tackling cancer is an All Party issue, transcending party political agendas. While there is clear evidence that links cancer to social deprivation, everyone in the community will have been affected by cancer. Over 70,000 people in Northern Ireland are living with a cancer diagnosis and one in three will have the disease at some point in their lifetime.
"We trust that our leaders will study the findings in this paper and endorse the recommendations so that fewer people are diagnosed with cancer, that those who are have ever improving outcomes, and that there are the support services to help them deal with the impact of the disease."
The report reveals that:
• Standardised packaging and legislation prohibiting smoking in private vehicles would be major steps towards reducing the impact of tobacco
• Alcohol consumption causes 4% of all cancers
• It is vital that primary care settings are supported in the delivery of cancer prevention messages
• Men are at a significantly higher risk of developing and dying from nearly all of the common cancers
• 22 cancer drugs available to patients in the rest of the UK are only available in exceptional circumstances in NI
• People living with cancer are subjected to numerous financial pressures with many unable to continue in employment as a result of their illness
L-r Roisin Foster, Chief Executive of Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, Tom Buchanan, Member of the Legislative Assembly NI (MLA), Fearghal McKinney MLA, Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Focus NI, Maresa McGettigan, Cancer Focus NI, Judith Cochrane MLA and Roy Beggs MLA at the launch of the annual report of the All Party Group on Cancer at Parliament Buildings, Belfast
Queen's University discovery signals new treatment for women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer
Cancer researchers at Queen's University Belfast have made a breakthrough which could signal new treatments for women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Currently around one in 1,000 women in the UK carry what is known as a BRCA1 mutation - the same condition that prompted well-known actress Angelina Jolie to undergo a double mastectomy. They have up to an 85% risk of developing breast cancer, and up to 40% risk of developing ovarian cancer, in their lifetimes.
Until now, preventive surgery - mastectomy (breasts) and oophorectomy (ovaries) - has been the only way of reducing the risk of developing both types of cancers.
The new discovery by researchers in Queen's Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) may mean women affected with BRCA1 could use drugs, which are already available, to reduce their risk of developing the disease, rather than undergo irreversible surgery. In turn, such treatments would open up the possibility of some of these women, who might otherwise have an oophorectomy, still being able to have children.
The Queen's-led research, which has been ongoing for four years, was carried out with funding from Cancer Focus Northern Ireland and another charity. It is carried in the latest edition of the prestigious USA-based journal Cancer Research.
The new research by Dr Kienan Savage and Professor Paul Harkin at CCRCB proves there is a direct link between high levels of oestrogen and DNA damage, which causes cancer, in the breasts and ovaries.
Specifically, the scientists discovered that the cells of women with the BRCA1 mutation cannot effectively fight the very high levels of oestrogen that exist in all women's breasts and ovaries, leaving them vulnerable to DNA damage.
While this link between oestrogen, breast/ovarian cancer and BRCA1 mutation has been suspected by the scientific community for years, it has not been proven until now.
Dr Kienan Savage (picture), from the CCRCB, and who led the research, said: "This discovery is very significant in the management of women with the BRCA1 gene mutation. It's the first really credible evidence that oestrogen is driving cancer in women with a BRCA1 gene mutation. Because of this discovery, we now have the opportunity to propose an alternative treatment to surgery. It also opens up the possibility of pausing treatment for a period in order for women to have children, if desired.
"What also makes this exciting is that there are drugs already on the market which turn off oestrogen production. In theory, we could use these drugs to chemically reduce oestrogen production in women which could negate the need for irreversible surgery."
Professor David Waugh, Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen's, said: "This breakthrough by researchers at CCRCB is great news for women with the BRCA1 gene and the cancer research community as a whole. It is pivotal in that it reveals more about the mechanisms behind breast and ovarian cancer.
"This work of Dr Kienan Savage and Professor Paul Harkin is further example of the world-leading research being undertaken at Queen's which continues to advance knowledge and change lives."
Roisin Foster, Chief Executive, Cancer Focus NI, said: "Cancer Focus is delighted to fund this ground-breaking research into breast cancer, which has the potential in the forseeable future to benefit women all over the world. We are only able to support this vital work because of the generosity of our local community."
The researchers are currently seeking funding to launch clinical trials and hope to do so within 12 months. It is envisaged that, in the first instance, a small control trial will be carried out using a combination of two drugs on 12 women for a period of three months, using biopsy, blood and urine samples to track DNA damage.
World Cancer Day 2014
Cancer Focus launches Parents' Page on website
A bright new webpage has been created by Cancer Focus Northern Ireland with lots of up-to-date health messages for parents and children. http://cancerfocusni.org/what-we-do/improve-your-health/parentspage/
Cancer Focus has been working with schools to improve the health of Northern Ireland children for more than 30 years and the charity visits hundreds of local schools each year with its healthy lifestyle messages.
The new webpage is the latest step in Cancer Focus's mission to lower the risk of local people getting cancer.
Clare Smith, Programme Manager for schools and young people, said: "As a parent myself I understand how difficult it is to make the healthy choice. We live in a very time-pressured society where many parents are working. I would be the first to admit that I struggle to prepare a nutritious, well-balanced meal for my children every night, but the advice and support on these pages are not about making you feel guilty.
"This page provides a mixture of interesting information and practical, easy and very often fun solutions to the problems we face every day in our quest to keep ourselves and our children healthy. There are sections on eating healthily, care in the sun, smoking, physical activity, alcohol, body awareness and sexual health.
"The online page also provides clear and concise information about what your child has been learning during our school visits in an easily accessible way. And we hope our Parents' Page will help to bridge the gap that exists between school and home in relation to habits and behaviours."
Cancer Focus is very grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for supporting this project.
Cancer Focus Launches Free Health Package for Schools
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has launched its free Schools Health Education Package (SHEP) in the battle against obesity, sunburn and smoking among local children.
The package aims to lower our children’s future risk of cancer and other serious health conditions by encouraging them to make healthy choices from an early age.
The key messages include healthy eating, the importance of taking regular exercise and covering up in the sun to prevent skin damage. The package also highlights the harmful effects of smoking and helps children to develop the skills necessary to refuse that crucial first cigarette.
Clare Smith, Manager of Schools and Youth Programmes at Cancer Focus, said: “Children of all ages will benefit from being involved in these highly interactive and engaging activities that are designed to be informative and fun. Children learn about positive health behaviours, such as healthy eating and regular exercise, while teachers and parents can also benefit from key cancer prevention messages.
“We’re developing healthy attitudes at a young age when children are most receptive to new ideas. Healthy eating, combined with regular exercise through active play, can help improve children’s concentration and sleeping patterns as well as reduce their future risk of cancer.”
SHEP includes educational resources for all age groups: P1 and P2 children can benefit from interactive storytelling about Genevieve the Goat focusing on healthy eating and exercise programmes; a Fit Factor challenge is available for P3 and P4; P5 children can take part in the Sun Scientist programme; and Smokebusters is suitable for P6 and P7 pupils. Similar health messages are currently being tailored to effectively target post primary school aged children.
Each programme explains how to integrate the key messages into children’s learning. They support the Northern Ireland curriculum and can be used to complement teaching in areas such as language and literacy, personal development and mutual understanding.
or you can follow us on Facebook or Twitter @cancerfocusNI
Pic caption: children from local schools help Cancer Focus Northern Ireland highlight the importance of a good diet, exercise and care in the sun as part of the battle against cancer
- Ends -
For further information please contact Louise Carey, Communications Manager, Cancer Focus, on 028 9068 0763 / 07884 362749 or Marie Foy, Communications Officer, on 028 9066 3281.
Notes to Editors:
Cancer Focus’s Schools Health Education Package includes:
P1 and P2: Genevieve the goat will visit schools and meet children to motivate them to be healthy and active. Children will read a story, take part in a quiz, play games and participate in physical activity.
P3 and P4: Fit Factor (in association with Lidl Northern Ireland) - a chance to win £4,000 worth of sports equipment for your school by completing healthy eating, physical activity, self-expressing and creativity tasks and submit your class’s creative project.
P5: The Sun Scientist project teaches children the importance in covering up in the sun to prevent sun damage using practical experiments.
P6 and P7: Smokebusters – Pupils will become members of the Smokebusters Club which aims to equip pupils with the skills necessary to refuse that crucial first cigarette, especially during the transition to Year 8.
Programmes for post primary schools are currently in development and will share similar health messages.
Tune up for Sing for Life
Sing for Life choir is tuning up for the autumn season and is inviting new members to come along.
This hugely successful partnership between Cancer Focus and the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast was set up last year for anyone affected by cancer.
There are now around 100 members with 45 to 50 attending weekly practise at the Moravian Church, University Road, Belfast. The first practise of the new season will take place on Monday August 5 at 6pm. The choir meets each Monday and new members are welcome any time.
Liz Atkinson, Head of Care Services, Cancer Focus, said: “Sing for Life is the first choir of its kind in Ireland and we are very proud of the excellent progress it has made.
“The choir has really taken off and has proved to be very popular with patients, their relatives and carers. We would love to see even more people coming along and joining in the fun. You don’t need any experience and it doesn’t matter if you are a brilliant singer or just sing in the shower – every voice is important – and there are no auditions to worry about.
“We start our get-togethers with a cup of tea or coffee and a chat at 6pm and that warms us up for our practise. We hope you’ll learn some new singing skills but the emphasis is very much on meeting people and having fun and enjoyment,” she said.
“Research from Wales shows that singing in a choir can be extremely therapeutic for cancer patients as it improved quality of life and self-esteem, and helped with pain relief and coping with depression. Our members seem to bear that out and they often tell us how much they enjoy the choir.
“We sing mostly up-beat, uplifting songs, and give small concerts which we find give the singers focus and motivation – and ticket sales help our fundraising too, which is an added bonus.”
Dr Keith Acheson, Manager of the Crescent Arts Centre, is the choirmaster. “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Cancer Focus in the development of this very special choir. This is one of many initiatives that our Outreach Department provides to the local community,” he said.
“The choir has grown from strength to strength and we have already held several public concerts, which have been warmly received.
“We aim to foster a relaxed environment in which every voice, trained or otherwise, is truly valued.”
Around 50,000 children across Northern Ireland have taken part in our hugely successful primary schools’ projects so far this year that relay our vital cancer prevention messages to the next generation.
Over the past two years we’ve visited more than 400 schools and almost 31,000 children became new members of our Smokebusters Club in 2013 alone.
Our Schools Health Education Programme (SHEP) includes something for every nursery and primary school class. There’s interactive storytelling with Genevieve, our healthy goat, who encourages physical activity and healthy eating. In partnership with Lidl Fit Factor, we encourage creativity, healthy eating, physical activity and self-expression.
Sun Scientist shows pupils the importance of being safe in the sun to prevent skin damage, and Smokebusters highlights the harmful effects of smoking and encourages children to create a smoke free society.
We are also planning to expand into secondary schools and are asking young people what information they want from Cancer Focus and how they want to receive it. Watch this space…
Our Development Worker Emma Rodgers has been working hard in youth clubs and community centres, as well as some secondary schools, helping young people to stop smoking.
“Many young people start smoking at school, are soon hooked and struggle to quit. I love helping to make it a little easier for them,” she said. “Their sense of achievement when they do manage to quit is so rewarding to see, not to mention their pleasure at the amount of money they can save - one young girl saved £220 in 12 weeks.”
Feedback from schools has been very positive. St Mary’s High School, Downpatrick, commented, “Cancer Focus has provided an excellent smoking cessation programme for our students over the last two academic years. It encouraged our students to reflect on the consequences and impact of smoking on their health. Already this year other students have requested that smoking cessation comes back to St Mary’s next year.”
The Social Experiment
A Belfast and Pomeroy based digital advertising company has come up with a novel way of making money for charity.
Digital Advertising NI (DANI) is behind a new Social Experiment to travel the length of Ireland using only social media to organise the mammoth 345 mile trip – and at the same time raise money for leading local charity Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.
Managing director Naomh McElhatton, Managing Director of Digital Advertising NI (DANI), has rallied friends to compete against each other in the race from Malin Head to Mizen.
The Social Experiment involves four teams who which will race from them the most northernly part of the country to the most southernly point over 26-28th April. The teams, equipped with only a head cam to film their journey, a change of clothes, an iPad and a charger, will have to appeal to their online friends and family to obtain transport, accommodation, food and drink.
“It all started after attending a conference last year in New York. I was inspired by stories of how people and companies used digital to drive their business forward. One group from China trialled something similar to our Social Experiment, only they did it for their own entertainment. I thought it would be a great idea for a fundraiser and once people came on board – the challenge was set”, Naomh said.
The funds raised for Cancer Focus, the new name for the Ulster Cancer Foundation, will help support local people who have been affected by cancer.
Joyce Savage, Head of Appeals and Marketing, Cancer Focus, added, “We have been providing services for local people for more than 40 years. Among the many services we offer are one-to-one counselling, support groups, helpline, a family support service, a driving hospital driving service, Sing for Life choir, art therapy and creative writing.
“We spend all our money locally and rely almost entirely on the general public to raise our funds so we are thrilled to be involved in such a new and exciting fundraiser and wish the teams all the best.”
For more information about Cancer Focus or further information on fundraising ideas, please call 028 9066 3281, click on www.cancerfocusni.org
You can follow the Social Experiment using the Twitter hashtag #socialexperiment or on Facebook ‘The Social Experiment’. If you’re feeling generous you can also sponsor the teams here - https://www.justgiving.com/Donna-Mullin
Press release 6th March 2013
Cancer Focus calls for tough action on alcohol pricing
The new Health First: An evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK was today welcomed by Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, which contributed to the report.
The Health First alcohol strategy addresses a major health problem and one source of the persistent health inequalities in the UK.
(Picture caption L-r: Gordon Dunn, Member of the Legislative Assembly (Northern Ireland Assembly), North Down, Roy Beggs, MLA East Antrim, Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention, Cancer Focus, Prof Linda Bauld, Stirling University, Cahal Ohoisin, MLA East Derry)
In 2010, the Department of Health published a report which estimated that the cost of alcohol misuse in Northern Ireland could be as much as £900m a year. Around 280 people die prematurely in Northern Ireland each year from alcohol related causes.
The strategy, published by the University of Stirling, was developed by a group of experts from a number of universities and health bodies under the auspices of the Alcohol Health Alliance. There was unanimous agreement from 70 UK health organisations, including Cancer Focus, that a 50p minimum price per unit of alcohol sold should be a priority.
One of the authors, Professor Linda Bauld from Stirling University, addressed MLAs about the strategy at the Stormont All Party Group on Cancer, organised by Cancer Focus.
She said: "Alcohol takes a significant toll on individuals and families in Northern Ireland. This has been recognised in a recent consultation on liquor licensing and a commitment by the Northern Ireland government to reduce the drink driving limit.
“However, these policies are just one part of what is needed to tackle the harms that alcohol causes. Our report sets out a comprehensive strategy for alcohol across the UK and includes 30 recommendations that focus on price, the product, the promotion of alcohol and the place of sale. It provides a blueprint for action - not just for today but for the longer term."
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention, Cancer Focus, urged Minsters and MLAs to adopt the pricing measure – the Scottish government has already passed legislation for a minimum cost of 50p per unit.
“The evidence that alcohol is a cause of a number of cancers – for example cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, colorectum (men), liver and breast – has become stronger in recent years,” he said.
“We must act now to start tackling this avoidable ‘epidemic’ and reverse a trend that sees around 280 people each year in Northern Ireland dying prematurely because of alcohol-related harm.
“Cancer Focus support this strategy and is using today’s All Party Cancer Group to urge Ministers and MLAs to implement its recommendations.”
For more information please contact: Marie Foy, PR & Events Officer, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland on
Notes to Editors
Drinking (Health Survey NI 2011/2012):
The public opinion survey included in the report demonstrates that most people support the need for changing our relationship with alcohol.
One third of smokers in Northern Ireland lost count of quit bids
No Smoking Day welcomes all quitters and re-quitters
More than a third of smokers in Northern Ireland have lost count of the number of times they have tried to quit and almost one in seven say they are ‘desperate to beat their addiction’, according to a new report out on March 13th, the 30th No Smoking Day.
The report also reveals that on average local smokers have made almost six failed attempts to quit.
The ‘30 No Smoking Days Later’ report highlights the glory years of declining smoking rates but pinpoints the plight of the ‘final fifth’, many of whom have been addicted to tobacco for years.
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland along with British Heart Foundation (BHF) Northern Ireland and the Public Health Agency (PHA), who are part of the local No Smoking Day Coordinating Committee, are urging smokers to stub out their cigarettes in a bid to kick their habit for good.
Stephanie Leckey, Area Development Manager BHF Northern Ireland, said: “Around 360,000 people aged 16 and over smoke in Northern Ireland and sadly one in every two will die earlier because of their smoking habit.”
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Focus (the new name for the Ulster Cancer Foundation), said: “No Smoking Day is one of the best times for smokers to escape their addiction so we are encouraging them to make today the start of their smoke-free lives.
“It can be difficult for smokers to quit on their own. Cancer Focus understands this and offers services to support people who want to give up. These include a Smokers’ Helpline on 0808 812 8008 (funded by PHA), and stop smoking sessions in local workplaces and community settings, with Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) and behavioural support.
“We look at overcoming the fear of quitting, coping with cravings, managing stress avoiding weight gain and adjusting to a better lifestyle.”
Gerry Bleakney, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement, PHA, explained: “As highlighted above quitting smoking can be very difficult, however if you enroll in a specialist stop smoking service as an aid to stop then you quadruple you chances of stopping smoking. An average of 50% of those who enrolled in services last year had successfully stopped at four weeks.
“If you quit and then relapse, accept it, work out why it happened, and focus on how you can avoid it in future. It takes several efforts for many people to quit for good but if you are determined you will do it.
“There are over 600 free stop smoking services across Northern Ireland in pharmacies, GP surgeries, hospitals, communities and workplaces. For information and useful tips to stop smoking, log on to the PHA’s ‘Want 2 Stop’ website www.want2stop.info and order a ‘Quit Kit’ free of charge. Alternatively contact the Smokers’ Helpline on 0808 812 8008.”
Cancer Focus will be at a number of venues today to offer support and advice to the public including the Kennedy Shopping Centre in Belfast from 10am to 1pm, George Best Belfast City Airport and a number of schools.
For smokers who want to get more information and advice call the free NI Smokers’ Helpline on 0808 812 8008, or visit www.want2stop.info for information on local services.
For information on No Smoking Day visit WeQuit.co.uk or Twitter using the hashtag #NoSmokingDay
Over 2,600 children in Northern Ireland have started smoking since end of Government’s standardised packs consultation
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland today turned the spotlight on the thousands of local children that have taken up smoking since the UK government’s public consultation on ‘plain’ standardised packs ended six months ago.
The leading local cancer charity warned that a shocking 2,640 children under 16s have started smoking in Northern Ireland since last August.
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Focus, said: “The Executive and UK Government must recognise that standardised cigarette packaging will help stop young people becoming hooked on a lethal product which kills half its users.
“We demand legislation that will protect our young people from highly branded, brightly coloured packs designed to glamorise tobacco. Every day we delay action allows the tobacco industry another opportunity to recruit the next generation of smokers.”
The packaging of tobacco products remains one of the last overt forms of tobacco promotion allowed in the UK. The tobacco industry uses glitzy packaging to recruit young people, who the industry has cynically termed ‘replacement smokers’, Mr McElwee added.
A recent report showed that tobacco packaging is attractive and misleading -especially to children[i]. Plain standardised packs would help discourage them from starting in the first place.
More than 150,000 children start smoking each year in the UK[ii] and enter into a lifelong habit which has been shown to be a childhood addiction, not an adult choice[iii]. Half of all lifelong smokers will die from their addiction amounting to over 100,000 people last year in the UK.[iv]
Mr McElwee said: “There is no evidence to support the claims of the tobacco industry, and those that represent them, that plain, standardised packaging will bolster the illegal tobacco trade.[v] Standardised packs would carry the same covert markings currently needed to identify illicit tobacco products.”
Opinion polls show that 64% of people in Northern Ireland support the plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products, with more smokers supporting than opposing the measure.[vi] Australia became the first country to standardised packaging in December 2012.
Notes to Editor
3 See evidence summarised in the PHRC report http://phrc.lshtm.ac.uk/project_2011-2016_006.html
[ii] Estimate based on figures taken by CRUK from Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England (2000 to 2010).
[iii] Two thirds of smokers become addicted before the age of 18 and 39% under 16 see data from the General Lifestyle survey http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ghs/general-lifestyle-survey/2010/index.html
[iv] Data from national sources from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
[vi] A poll by YouGov for ASH found that overall 64% of adults in N.Ireland supported this while just 11% opposed the measure. Even among smokers for every 5 who oppose there are 6 who support. Total sample size was 10,000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th February to 16th March 2012.
Stay sun safe on winter holidays
Sunscreen is one holiday essential that often gets left behind when people pack for a winter holiday. The Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland are reminding travellers not to forget about sunscreen during their winter get-away.
Whether you are heading to the ski slopes or jetting off for some winter rays, it is important to stay safe in the sun during your break.
Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy Co-ordinator, Cancer Focus, said: “Many people may not be aware of the risk of sunburn during winter months but it is important to take appropriate steps to protect your skin from the winter sun.
“Research shows that, over recent years, there has been an increase in cases of malignant melanoma, the least common but most serious form of skin cancer. This type of cancer is linked to sun exposure and the number of cases in Northern Ireland has almost trebled in the past 25 years. To protect against malignant melanoma it is best to avoid the sun, cover up or apply sunscreen.
"Everyone is at risk of sun damage therefore it is vitally important that all of us take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and actively reduce the risks of skin cancer.”
Despite the fact that it's chilly up in the mountains and you're surrounded by snow, this is one of the places that you're most likely to get sunburnt and suffer from skin damage. This is also the case for winter sun seekers - just because it’s off-peak does not mean that the sun is any less harmful.
Marbeth said: “You don’t need to be sunbathing to get skin cancer - it is over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) which can cause serious damage over time. It is important for everyone to avoid getting sunburnt, and this is particularly important for children.
“UV radiation from the sun can cause skin damage, even on cloudy days. Be careful of sand, water and snow which can reflect the sun’s rays. Also the higher altitude of ski resorts means increased intensity of UV radiation.”
“As well as skin cancer UVR also causes skin damage, aging, wrinkling and eye damage, so it is vital to take the necessary measures to protect yourself to safely enjoy sport and other outdoor activities.”
There are a number of top tips to increase the chances of keeping skin healthy and young looking:
Cancer Focus hits a high note
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland is singing from the roof tops about its brand new Sing for Life choir for anyone affected by cancer – patients, carers or relatives.
The choir is run in partnership with the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast. It started in September and already has more than 40 members who meet weekly. The choir held its first performance at the centre just before Christmas to wide acclaim.
Liz Atkinson, Head of Care Services, Cancer Focus, said, “We are really excited about this new project for cancer patients, their families and those who care for them.
“Anyone who is interested is invited to come along and join in. You can have a cup of tea, a chat and learn some new singing skills. You don’t need any experience and it doesn’t matter if you are a brilliant singer or just sing in the shower – there are no auditions as we believe every voice counts,” she said.
“The emphasis is very much be on meeting people and having fun and enjoyment.
“Research from Wales shows that singing in a choir can be extremely therapeutic for patients as it improved quality of life and self-esteem, and helped with pain relief and coping with depression.
“We sing mostly up-beat, uplifting songs, and we have started giving small concerts which give the singers focus and motivation. Hopefully the choir will also perform at a few of our fundraising events in the future.”
Before setting up the choir, Liz paid a visit to a choir set up by the Welsh cancer charity Tenovus and found it truly inspiring. “Everyone involved was so enthusiastic - they love belonging to their choir, having a good time and meeting new people who are going through similar experiences. You couldn’t help but want to join in.
“One of their choir members said, ‘You can be feeling dreadful but you go to choir and feel better because you’ve sung your heart out and been with people who love you.’”
Dr Keith Acheson, who is manager of the Crescent Arts Centre, is the choirmaster, and pianist Megan Boyd is also a member of staff at the centre.
Keith said, “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Cancer Focus Northern Ireland with this very special choir at the Crescent Arts Centre. It is particularly pleasing that both myself and Megan are involved in shaping its musical direction and most importantly fostering a relaxed environment in which every voice, trained or otherwise, will be truly valued.
Keith Acheson, choirmaster. Liz Atkinson, Cancer Focus Head of Care Services, and patron BBC TV presenter Noel Thompson at the first concert
Run it for yer man
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has been chosen as the official charity partner for the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon 2013.
The 2013 marathon will take place on May Bank Holiday, 6th May, and work has already started behind the scenes to make the popular sporting event even bigger and better than before.
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, the new name for the Ulster Cancer Foundation, is urging marathon runners from all over Europe, wheelchair participants, relay teams, fun runners and walkers to show their support for Cancer Focus, sign up early and start training.
All the sponsorship money raised from the prestigious flagship event will go towards the charity’s Men’s Health Campaign and help support men with cancer and their families.
Joyce Savage, Head of Appeals and Marketing, Cancer Focus, said, “Focusing on men’s health is an extremely important part of our charity’s work. Cancer is one of the biggest killers of men in Northern Ireland, yet our research shows that they know less about the disease than women and are less likely to seek advice if they have any warning signs or symptoms.
“Our focus is on raising awareness and lowering men’s risk of developing cancer later in life."
Together Against Cancer
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has highlighted the benefits of collaboration between cancer leagues across Europe for the greater good of those affected by the disease. Liz Atkinson, Head of Care Services at Cancer Focus, said, “Cancer leagues across Europe often help and inspire each other and we believe that the ability and willingness to pool resources, information and research is vital in the battle against cancer.
“An example of this is the new Cancer Focus beauty booklet, ‘A Guide to Looking Your Best’, which was recently published to help patients. The text for our guide was adapted and amended from the original source, ‘Look Well to Feel Your Best’, produced by the Foundation Against Cancer in Brussels. We are greatly indebted to them for allowing us to benefit from their work and permitting us to use their guide as a model for our own.”
For more information about Cancer Focus and its services please click on www.cancerfocusni.org