Research suggests NI cancer survival rates improve

Image caption, Breast Screening for cancer

Survival rates among cancer patients in Northern Ireland are improving despite a rise in the number of cases, new research suggests.

The results are contained in reports published by the NI Cancer Registry (NICR) at Queen's University, Belfast.

There have been improvements in survival rates for rectal, prostate and breast cancers.

Dr Anna Gavin, NICR, said the information should reassure people frightened by the disease.

"In particular we have noticed an improvement with rectal cancer which reflects an increased centralisation of services and changes to the way patients are treated," she said.

"The breast cancer survival rate has been improving quite markedly over the years and that trend is continuing.

"With prostate cancer we have seen improvements in treatment even though there has been a huge increase in the number of patients diagnosed."

The reports examined cancer care and outcomes for patients diagnosed with either prostate, breast or colorectal cancer between 1996 and 2006.

These together account for over 3,000 cancers in Northern Ireland each year.

The reports highlight the need for continued work to prevent these diseases.

It points to improvements such as more centralised treatment, closer working between clinicians, early diagnosis and better treatment options as having had a significant impact on patient survival rates.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said the results of the reports reflected increased investment in cancer services.

"This has led to an improvement in both quality of treatment and outcomes for cancer patients in Northern Ireland," he said.

"In Northern Ireland, we now have excellent facilities for cancer patients, at the Regional Cancer Centre in Belfast and the cancer units at the Ulster, Antrim, Altnagelvin and Craigavon Hospitals.

"This will be further enhanced by the development of a satellite radiotherapy unit, which is planned for Altnagelvin to meet radiotherapy demands from 2015 onwards."

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