Fine Gael TD for Galway West & Mayo South

Speech at the Irish Cancer Society’s National Conference



I am delighted to be with you here today and to have an opportunity to hear first-hand some of the experiences and stories from people with an understanding of the importance of cancer survivorship care.

I would like to congratulate the Irish Cancer Society on hosting their 25th National Conference for Cancer Survivorship and acknowledge the support this event provides to anyone affected by cancer.

I’d like to thank Dermot Breen, Chairman Irish Cancer Society and welcome delegates and congratulate survivors. Welcome also to Averil Power – former colleague – new CEO

I understand its Averil’s first conference.

I’d like to congratulate the Irish Cancer Society on its wonderful work around the country for the support you give to patients and survivors. Cancer is a very worrying diagnosis and it’s always good to have someone who can empathise and is living proof that there’s life with, and after cancer.

For the past 5 years we have hosted a Coffee Morning for Daffodil Day in my office in Moycullen and its obvious –

▪ The high regard the Irish Cancer Society is held in the community and

▪ The awareness of the challenges cancer poses to patients, families and communities.

The past week has been dominated by the ongoing, very serious Cervical Screening issue and the Scally report. It is imperative that lessons are learned and that the recommendations from Dr Scally are implemented immediately. For some women this will be tragically too late but as a tribute to them, and to ensure that women’s health is prioritised and protected, there can be no delay.

In all of the very necessary discussion around screening I’m glad that the benefits of screening has continued to be highlighted. Colon screening, Breast Check and Cervical screening has saved lives through early diagnosis and they and other screening procedures must play a central part in our fight against cancer.

‘Maximising patient involvement and quality of life’ is a crucial feature of the vision of the National Cancer Strategy. Optimising a person’s quality of life, or living well, can mean very different things to different people and we need to ensure that everyone can achieve their highest quality of life. For many it could mean living at a level of pain free contentment while for others it could mean assimilating back into the workforce. The Department of Health is working to implement this vision and understands the need to develop a comprehensive cancer survivorship model of care.

A key goal of survivorship care is to empower patients to achieve their best possible health. With this important goal in mind, this year the ‘Cancer Thriving and Surviving’ evidence-based self-support programme is being commenced. There are now 17 master trainers in Ireland who can train others to deliver the programme and ensure that more can benefit from this service at a national level.

The delivery of psycho-oncology and psycho-social support services is a major focus of the National Cancer Strategy. Evidence indicates that those who avail of these services will have a better quality of life and further highlights the importance of the provision of these services.

I visited Galway University Hospital last week with Minister Harris and heard about the proposal to demolish the old Psychiatric Unit and to construct a new Oncology Unit on the site. I know many of you are or were patients of the present unit which is inadequate for a “centre of excellence” serving Galway to Donegal.

I am anxious that this facility is built and staffed to a level where patients and their families find it a refuge and a caring environment to help them through their illness and out the other side.

Cancer is a very difficult challenge and we all know people who have won and lost the battle. But early detection is vitally important for good outcomes.

This week a work colleague of mine passed his 5 year milestone as cancer free. He was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon Cancer on his 50th birthday and due to good medical care and a positive attitude he’s back to full health.

I know many of you have similar good stories to tell and we celebrate those here today.

The lesson is that there is life with and after cancer. It might be a different quality of life but it’s precious for survivors and families.

Have a great day.

Well done again on your great work and thank you for the invitation for me to speak today.