Healthy Living: Charity looks back on 20 years of vital work

Catherine Anthony, Cancer Information Co-ordinator at Weston Park Hospital.  Image � Paul David Drabble.
Catherine Anthony, Cancer Information Co-ordinator at Weston Park Hospital. Image � Paul David Drabble.
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By the year 2020 half of the UK population will be affected by cancer at some point in their lifetime - or so the latest research suggests.

But although the reasons behind the increase in rates of diagnosis will spark continued debate and public health campaigns, a Sheffield charity is certain to continue its dedicated work supporting cancer treatments in order to boost survival figures, as it has done for the past 20 years.

Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity was launched two decades ago in 1994 with an appeal to raise £1 million for a CT scanner.

Since then the good cause has expanded significantly to meet the need for projects that are not covered by NHS funding, raising around £16m in total.

Last year the charity had a record-breaking year, raising over £2m for the first time.

A series of events are planned this year to mark the anniversary - including the new Time For Tea campaign - while Healthy Living will also be marking the milestone with more special features throughout 2014.

Back in 1994, the charity was launched in The Star with a prediction that the ‘icing on the cake of today will become the bread and butter of tomorrow’.

Prof Barry Hancock, who was leading Weston Park Hospital’s university department of clinical oncology at the time, said: “Considering how far the hospital has advanced in terms of research and treatment options, it wasn’t a bad maxim to go by.

“When the first appeal succeeded in raising £1m for a CT scanner, not only did we achieve precision in pin-pointing radiotherapy treatment, we were spot-on for predicting the rapid advances in improving such treatments.

“It still rings true to this day that the ground-breaking advances we invest in today, will no doubt result in the life-changing treatments of tomorrow. The charity has been instrumental in supporting research and new developments.”

In Sheffield, statistics for the number of people developing cancer are above average, with around 2,800 people being diagnosed each year.

The original Sheffield National Centre for Radiotherapy was opened in 1945, with Weston Park Hospital in its current form opening its doors in 1971.

It remains one of only four dedicated cancer hospitals in the country.

Over the past 20 years, the charity has invested £3.25m into supporting the radiotherapy department, while in the late 1990s it collected £2m to pay for a clinical trials centre.

This facility has recently been added to with a brand new £1m clinical research unit, again funded by an appeal called Do Your Bit.

The hospital’s specialist teenage cancer unit is also helped by donations, while the charity has to raise more than £200,000 annually to keep the Cancer Support Centre running.

Former radiographer Catherine Anthony, who recently retired from her post as Weston Park’s cancer information co-ordinator, has seen first hand how the cash is spent - both in her work and during her own battle with cancer.

Catherine started work at the hospital in 1971, and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002.

“Little did I know what a big impact it would have on my life, both professionally and personally,” she said.

The Time for Tea fundraiser encourages people to host tea parties during May to raise money. Events can be held in homes, workplaces or community venues and everyone who takes part receives a pack containing materials to make their party a success.

Charity director Samantha Kennedy said: “Although we’re still a relatively small team, we hope to make an even bigger impact in the next 20 years by increasing funding for life-changing projects.”

To sign up for Time For Tea, cut out, complete and post the form on the right.