World Cancer Day (WCD) is an annual international event to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms, treatment and prevention of the many different forms of cancer.
Ireland has the third highest rate of cancer in the world. The research on Irish people in Britain echoes this statistic with persistent, and in some cases increasing, high levels of cancer mortality in the community.
Evidence shows that lung and colorectal cancer are among the main causes of mortality among Irish men and women.
The older age profile of the Irish population in Britain is a factor in the high incidences of cancer mortality, but that’s only one part of the puzzle. As a migrant community we have distinct cultural traits, beliefs and attitudes that influence our health behaviour. Knowledge of signs and symptoms of cancer is lower among the Irish than white British, which can lead to late diagnosis. These distinct differences call for targeted and culturally sensitive health campaigns. Despite campaigning by Irish in Britain and recommendations by the Department of Health to publish Irish as a separate ethnic category, this has yet to come to pass.
There’s also much we can do as individuals and as a community to help improve the health of the Irish in Britain. This year’s WCD marks the launch of the three–year ‘I Am and I Will’ campaign. ‘I Am and I Will’ is an empowering call–to–action urging for personal commitment and represents the power of individual action taken now to impact the future.
Many of IiB’s member organisations run cancer support groups and carer support groups that are culturally sensitive to the needs of the Irish community. Member organisations also serve lunch to thousands of older Irish people in Britain, providing an opportunity to promote health initiatives. Irish in Britain’s health campaign Green Hearts focuses on early detection and screening as well as promoting healthy lifestyle habits.
Our key message today is to promote early detection. We encourage our readers to visit your doctor or speak up about any concerns you may have. Early detection greatly improves chances of successful treatment. Speaking at the launch of its Lung Cancer Action Plan, the Irish Cancer Society stated that campaigns that specifically target lung cancer screening could save over 350 lives in Ireland every year and must be considered by government.
Download the Irish in Britain health factsheet on cancer here.