'Cancer knows no borders:' Pink Ladies Cancer Conference hears cross-border Derry & Donegal plans
A conference held by the Pink Ladies Cancer Support Group to mark World Cancer Day heard how the island of Ireland is facing an epidemic of cancer diagnoses.
The event, which was held in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel in Buncrana, also introduced the Pink Ladies cross-border collaboration, in line with the World Cancer Day 2023 theme: ‘Where you live, should not determine if you live’.
Maureen Collins, Pink Ladies, told those gathered that there should never be ‘postcode lotteries’ in relation to health care and an ‘all-island approach of vital support services for families dealing with a cancer diagnosis’ is vitally important.
"Cancer knows no border, no politics, no race, no gender. It doesn’t discriminate, why should we?”
Ms Collins highlighted how the North West Cancer Centre sees patients from across the North West, including Inishowen and Donegal and said the Pink Ladies and Pink Panthers, as a community development service, wants to share their knowledge, skills and experience with those other communities.
The conference was attended by local community groups, services, staff of the North West Cancer Centre and local politicians.
The Cathaoirleach of Inishowen, Councillor Paul Canning, said he was ‘honoured’ to open the event and help promote Pink Ladies presence across the North West.
Councillor Gerry McMonagle, Chairperson of the North West Regional Health Forum said the lack of investment in health care services has created difficulties in delivering the health care that is needed.
Praising the ‘constant’ that is the health care staff, to whom ‘we owe a large debt of gratitude’, Colr McMonagle outlined how many cancer patients still have to travel to Galway and Dublin to access cancer services.
“That is not a proper health service by any stretch of the imagination and needs to change.”
Other speakers at the event included Dr Claire McCauley, Lecturer in Health Sciences at University of Ulster, who announced the awarding of £90K from The Ideas Fund to research ‘exploring the lived experience of post cancer surgery on mental health.’
Dr Scott Jones from Mind the Gap Research and Training group spoke on the impacts of Agricultural Pollution On Human Health and Donna Mc Closkey announced the Better Together project, which aims to tackle the lack of cross-border collaboration in the third sector north and south of the border.
Jacquie Loughrey, Education and Prevention Officer, explained the joint campaigns, programmes and awareness on Environmental Toxins and Human Health and Sean Harkin, Family Support and Liaison Officer outlined the services they offer and hope to bring to Inishowen area.
There was also a discussion on Don’t Let Cancer be the forgotten ‘C’, which Ms Collins said was a quote from their ‘colleague, expert and inspiration, Professor Mark Lawlor.”
"It struck a chord with us and everyone else and he then told us that we are about to face an epidemic of cancer diagnoses on the island of Ireland as a whole. We know from the Department of Health that Robin Swann presented in 2020, around cancer treatment targets across all health and social care trusts, that we are set to have an increase in 43% male and 40% female cancers by 2026.”
She outlined how prevention is the most effective, long-term approach for cancer and the Pink Ladies has ‘already been described by world experts as leading the way in cancer prevention at a community and world level.”
Michelle McLaren, development officer with the Pink Ladies, highlighted the importance of screening.
"We’re seeing quite a lot of younger people being diagnosed and at a later stage and for us, it’s due to screening and people not going to their screening appointments during Covid.”