Cancer Focus Northern Ireland



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Equal Access

Cancer Focus Northern Ireland launched a three month campaign in June 2014 calling for Equal Access to life-extending cancer drugs for patients in Northern Ireland.  Currently there are 40 cancer drugs that are available to patients in England, but not readily available to patients in Northern Ireland.

The campaign, launched in partnership with the Daily Mirror and with the support of 14 local charities, initially aimed to secure 10,000 pledges of support to be presented to the then Health Minister Edwin Poots by autumn 2014, but after reaching that number in only 11 days, we doubled the number of pledges. The final number of pledges –  total of 26,000 pledges of support (20,000 online and 6,000 postcards) – was presented to Health Minister Jim Wells on 7 th October.

At the end of September Minister Jim Wells announced the set up of an evaluative panel looking into the efficacy of the Individual Funding  Review (IFR)  – the current drug approval system in NI.

Cancer Focus NI met with the evaluative panel on 12th Nov and presented a written brief outlining our concerns with the current process and highlighting the objectives of the Equal Access campaign.

We have also contributed to the Health Committee’s evidence session  with the DHSSPS and ABPI to further investigate the lack of access to cancer drugs in NI.

An evaluation of the existing IFR system was commissioned by Health Minister Jim Wells last year and five recommendations have now been made outlining ways to improve access to drugs that are not routinely available. The Department of Health held a three month public consultation  seeking public opinion on the listed recommendations.   To find out more about the Minister’s recommendations and the series of public meetings see here. You can read Cancer Focus NI’s submission to IFR Evaluation (May 2015) here.

Cancer Focus NI has been a driving force in the campaign to overhaul the currentPRide-2015-Shortlist-Button system to fund life-extending cancer medicines here since 2010.  The Equal Access campaign has been supported by 15 other charities including: Action Cancer, Angels of Hope, Cancer Choices, Cancer Connect, Cancer Lifeline, Care for Cancer, Family Care in Cancer, Foyle Hospice, Friends of the Cancer Centre, Lilac, NI Cancer Fund for Children, NI Hospice, Pancreatic Cancer UK, Pretty ‘n’ Pink and the Southern Area Hospice.

Brain Cancer

March marks the start of Brain Cancer Awareness Month. Approximately 100 -150 people have surgery each year here in Northern Ireland and that works out at approximately under 1.5% of the population.  The figures from NI Cancer Registry for 2011 indicate that 69 men and 38 women were diagnosed with malignant brain tumours in that year so it would appear that this cancer is more common in men.

The difference between benign and malignant tumours is that benign types do not contain cancerous cells. The term secondary brain tumour means that the cancer didn’t originate in the brain but spread from a cancer in another part of the body.

The cause of most primary brain tumours is still largely unknown  and research into this tumour needs much more funding. Charities like The Brain Cancer Trust are working tirelessly to redress this issue while providing support and information to those patients and families affected. 

The NI charity Brainwaves is also working closely with the Belfast Trust at Royal Victoria Hospital to help support our local population. They have recently joined forces to produce up to date information on brain cancer and leaflets are soon to be made available.  Cancer Focus also hopes to build up a stronger relationship with them both and help improve access to services in terms of gaining access to the right source of professional help when symptoms arise through to care at home for patient and family.

Research is poorly funded in that brain cancer receives less than 1% of national spend on cancer research in UK.

Signs and Symptoms of Brain Cancer coming soon. 


Every September we raise awareness of lymphoma – cancer of the lymphatic system, part of the circulatory system.

There are two basic types of lymphomas – Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Lymphoma has one of the fastest rising incidence rates of any cancer, affecting more than 1,000 local people and researchers are working hard to discover its exact cause.

With more than 35 known types of lymphoma we want to make sure that people are aware of the most common symptoms.  These include painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin; night sweats, high temperatures or fever, tiredness and persistent fatigue, coughs and breathlessness or an itch over the body with no rash.

No Smoking Day


We use No Smoking Day in mid March to encourage smokers to quit by raising awareness of the dangers of smoking and the range of stop smoking services that we offer.  No Smoking Day in Northern Ireland is jointly organised by Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, the Public Health Agency (PHA) and British Heart Foundation (BHF) Northern Ireland – members of the local No Smoking Day Coordinating Group.

25% of adults in Northern Ireland smoke (360,000)  and research has shown that over two thirds would like to stop. Half of all smokers are killed by their addiction.  Smoking accounts for the deaths of 2,500 local people each year and it causes 1/3 of all cancers.  Stopping smoking is the most important thing that you can do to improve your health.

No Smoking Day is one of the best times for smokers to begin a smoke-free life.  Each year we work with pharmacies, dental practices, businesses and the public to raise awareness of No Smoking Day and help smokers kick the habit for good.  We help smokers plan their quit attempt and on No Smoking Day we offer quit tips, advice and support in shopping centres, bus/train stations and local businesses.

We work closely with the PHA, BHF NI, Health Trusts, Environmental Health and the voluntary sector to ensure that No Smoking Day remains highly successful in Northern Ireland.

Care in the Sun

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Northern Ireland.  Around 2,500 people develop skin cancer each year, accounting for 28% of all cancers diagnosed.

Alarmingly, over a 25 year period the number of cases of malignant melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, has almost trebled. Melanoma is most common between the ages of 40-60 years but a significant number of cases occur in people under 35.

Research that we carried out shows that 8 out of 10 people do not apply sunscreen at home unless they are ‘actively’ sunbathing. Our message is that you don’t need to be sunbathing to get skin cancer – rather it is over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) which can cause serious damage over time. It is important for everyone to avoid getting sunburned, particularly children.

Our top tips are: seek shade and avoid prolonged exposure when the sun is at its peak – 11am to 3pm; wear clothing and hats that protect against UVR; use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 and apply liberally. These measures are essential, not just when travelling to the world’s sunspots, but even in the relatively milder weather conditions locally.

Check out this Care in the Sun video made by Northern Regional College students;

For more details on how to take Care in the Sun click on  or contact us on 028 9066 3281 or email




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