Every year, about 29,500 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire and the Humber.
It’s a shocking figure, and awareness of the disease and what can be done to help prevent it is as vital as ever.
Today, February 4, is World Cancer Day, and people across Sheffield and South Yorkshire can get involved by highlighting the work of cancer charities on social media, donating to one of the many worthwhile organisations, or by buying and wearing a unity band.
For the first time, Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Care, Anthony Nolan and the Movember Foundation are linked together for a day in their bid to transform the lives of millions who are smitten by cancer.
Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesman for Sheffield said: “So many of us have been affected by the disease. Whatever your motivation -to remember a loved one, celebrate people who have overcome the disease or to rally in support of those going through treatment - World Cancer Day is a chance to help reduce the impact of cancer on future generations.”
World Cancer Day is actually a three year project that takes: “We can, I can” as its mantra.
Of the 8.2 million people who die from cancer worldwide each year, four million die prematurely, aged between 30 and 69 years.
There is real need for global commitment and a unified approach to help drive advancements in policy.
Different charities address different cancer needs. Macmillan nurses are well known but have many specialisms within their service: Professor Diana Greenfield is a local Macmillan consultant nurse who heads the ‘late effects service’ for adults who have received cancer treatment.
Her team based at Weston Park and Royal Hallamshire Hospitals in Sheffield, works with specialist doctors across the city to address possible late or long term consequences of cancer treatment, covering both emotional and medical issues.
Prof Greenfield said: “People affected by cancer can find it hard talking to friends and family. Those close to them don’t understand that the healing process can take weeks, months and even years. Treatment can take its toll on energy levels as well as having a huge emotional impact.”
She added: “I do the job I do because I care passionately that people with cancer deserve to get the very best care they possibly can, especially at the time when most vulnerable.”
Tanya Urquhart, Macmillan clinical nurse specialist for paediatric and TYA late effects, was the first late effects Macmillan Specialist Nurse in the UK.
Tanya said: “When families first arrive at the ‘late effects’ clinic there’s a realisation that this isn’t necessarily the end of their cancer journey. There are many potential late effects that may affect young people living with and beyond cancer, these include cardiac problems, hormone deficiency, infertility and delayed puberty.
“We support young people in many different ways such as getting back to education. “We know that small adjustments can easily be made to make this easier; something as simple as allowing additional time for exams.”
Psychological problems after treatment for a childhood cancer may not become apparent for years, Tanya explained: “Some young people experience post-traumatic stress. The fact that we support our survivors until they’re 25 allows us to monitor them and quickly intervene should additional support be required.”
A different charity working on research in to all types of cancer across the globe is Worldwide Cancer Research. The organisation, that has made fundamental research discoveries over 35 years, is now headed by a Rotherham woman in the form of recently appointed CEO Dr Helen Rippon. She said: “While in many respects it is a turbulent and rapidly changing world for charities, there has never been a more exciting time to be funding cancer research that we hope will one day change the way the world sees cancer.”
“We have come a long way since Richard Nixon launched ‘The War on Cancer’ back in 1971. Back then, scientists had no understanding of cancer biology, nor the technology to uncover it. Cancer was a dreaded enemy and it took another 20 years to begin reducing the death rate.
“Luckily now half the people diagnosed with cancer survive – double the number back in the 1970s. For some cancers, complete cures are already possible for many.”
Emphasising the need for more research, she said: “Today we have amazing technology. Our ability to sequence the human genome once took the effort of a huge international consortium 13 years and around $3 billion. Now it can be produced in a mere week or two and costs much less than a second hand car.”
Support Weston Park
To mark World Cancer Day, the dedicated charity for the region’s cancer hospital is encouraging people to support them when writing their will and leave a lasting legacy. Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity has teamed up with Irwin Mitchell solicitors to offer charity supporters a special discounted will writing service and also make a donation to the cancer charity for each Will they write.
Weston Park Hospital treats patients from all over South Yorkshire, North Nottinghamshire and North Derbyshire, and as much as 38 per cent of the charity’s income can come from gifts made in Wills. Visit Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity or call 01142 265370.