Sinn Fein MLA for Foyle and Chair of the Health Committee at Stormont, Maeve McLaughlin, spent a day learning all about the services provided by Cancer Focus NI in Derry recently.
The Foyle MLA took a tour of the charity’s Keeping Well van, which brings health checks and advice to the heart of communities. She also spoke to staff who look after the charity’s bra and swimwear-fitting service for women who’ve had breast surgery, which is based at Altnagelvin.
Head of Care Services, Cancer Focus NI, Liz Atkinson, talked to the MLA about the charity’s thriving North West prostate cancer group, which has a healthy membership of 74, and she also heard about Zest for Life, art therapy and Look Good, Feel Better.
Cancer Focus NI Head of Cancer Prevention Gerry McElwee, from Castledawson, discussed various issues with Ms McLaughlin such as extending the HPV vaccination to include boys to help protect against cervical cancer.
The MLA also heard about the charity’s important work fundraising to help fund research at Queen’s University Belfast into breast cancer.
The charity was also recently awarded a top UK accolade by the Royal Society for Public Health for its work, particularly the Well Aware project for older people.
Ms McLaughlin said: “I was delighted to spend some real time with the staff from Cancer Focus NI and to develop my understanding of this vital service.
“Cancer is one of the most significant causes of ill health and disability in our society. It is estimated that one in three of the population will develop a cancer by the age of 75. There are approximately 13,000 new cases of cancer in Northern Ireland annually and around 4,000 lose their battle with the disease.”
Ms, McLaughlin added: “While we have seen much progress in relation to research and development in this field it remains the case that prevention and early detection are critical.
“The Cancer Focus NI van is critical in taking health messages right to the heart of our homes, communities and workplaces and I would appeal for all sectors to utilise this vital tool - after all early intervention can quite literally save lives.
“I would like to personally thank all the staff I met for their time, expertise and important work supporting our communities.”
Joyce Savage, from Cancer Focus NI, said, “We were delighted to show Maeve some of the work we are involved in. This includes care services, cancer prevention work in local schools and colleges and stop smoking clinics in various community venues.
“We are very keen to let people in the North West know about our services and encourage people to make use of them.”