Charity will travel across NI to urge patients and professionals to catch it early
OG Cancer has launched their new mobile unit to raise awareness of oesophageal and stomach cancer at an event at Stormont that will see their branded vehicle on the first of its many journeys across Northern Ireland.
Funding for the vehicle was provided from The National Lottery Community Fund, which has been made possible thanks to National Lottery players.
Backed by this fund, and further supported by Ford, the van will support those who are already being treated, people who are worried about symptoms, or those who have recently received a diagnosis.
Helen Setterfield MBE, Chair of OG Cancer NI said that with approximately 400 people diagnosed each year it is important to make sure that people know what to look out for.
“I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer 18 years ago,” she said. “I am only here today as I was lucky to ‘catch it early’. This type of cancer is extremely aggressive, however. I have seen first-hand the difference in the cancer journey for patients diagnosed at an early stage.”
In addition to the mobile unit, and with support of the National Lottery funding and funds raised by supporters, OG Cancer will be launching a dedicated advertising campaign on radio, various digital platforms and on ADshel bus shelters, ensuring that the charity’s message reaches as many people as possible.
The campaign aims to improve the prognosis of patients in Northern Ireland, by increasing public awareness of oesophageal cancer, and by encouraging people to notice the symptoms and seek advice from their GP at the earliest possible time before the cancer spreads.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Early diagnosis is key to fighting this disease, therefore raising awareness of the symptoms of oesophageal and stomach cancer is vital. For anyone who is concerned or worried, please speak to your GP.
“This new mobile unit will not only help raise awareness, but will also be a very important source of support for those in Northern Ireland who have been diagnosed with this type of cancer.”
The campaign will also strive to increase awareness of oesophageal cancer throughout the medical and caring professions.
The event to launch this new initiative is being hosted by Stewart Dickson MLA, himself a survivor of oesophageal cancer, who urged people to know what to look out for.
“Symptoms of oesophageal and stomach cancer include persistent heartburn or acid reflux that doesn’t go away, trouble swallowing, sudden weight loss, regurgitation or hiccups that do not go away,” he said. “I personally know how important it is that this type of cancer is caught early.”
According to the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, only 10.4% of upper gastrointestinal cancer patients are diagnosed at the earliest stage. The five year survival rate for those diagnosed at the earliest stage is 68%, compared to two percent for those diagnosed at stage four.
Leanne Molloy, 37, is a mother of two and a survivor of oesophageal cancer. Commenting on OG Cancer’s new campaign, she said: “The campaign is brilliant. Oesophageal cancer is not common, I had never heard of it before I was diagnosed.
“If you google it, the statistics show older men, so it’s so important to get this out there, for people and GP’s. It should be made aware that anyone can get it.”
Leanne stressed the importance of taking action if you notice any symptoms. “If you have symptoms, get it checked out,” she said, adding: “Don’t keep taking tablets if it’s persistent hiccups or burping. Go and see your doctor. That’s what the doctors are there for.”
Adrian Hale, 55, who is also a survivor of oesophageal cancer, and runs a cancer support group at his local church in his spare time, joined Leanne in stressing the importance of getting diagnosed early.
“I was lucky enough to be in the minority percentage of people who were eligible for surgery because I was diagnosed early,” said Adrian.
“If I see someone with constant heartburn, I will encourage them to get to the doctors. If you have symptoms, get to a doctor and hound them for an endoscope.”
This latest initiative will provide a much needed outreach to people who have never heard of the condition. It will not only help raise awareness but it will also provide essential support in hard to reach areas.
Consultant Upper GI Surgeon Mr Andrew Kennedy said: “As a surgeon treating patients with oesophago-gastric cancer, I cannot over-emphasise the essential role provided by OG Cancer NI to my patients.”
Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Community Fund said:
“We look forward to seeing the difference the £100,823 National Lottery grant will make to local people, by raising awareness of the symptoms of OG Cancer through this dedicated campaign, helping improve early detection and survival rates across Northern Ireland. Well done to everyone involved.
“Thanks to National Lottery players, over £30 million is raised each week for good causes like this across the UK.”
OG Cancer’s new mobile unit will make sure that rural areas can be targeted, as well as urban centres. The van can be located at various points and can be booked to attend key events throughout the country.
If you would like to get involved in volunteering or have an event coming up that the OG Cancer Mobile unit can attend, please get in touch at [email protected].