Action Cancer Continuing to Save Lives Through Covid-19
Action Cancer, Northern Ireland’s leading, local cancer charity has unveiled its Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign, taking place during October.
Ambassadors for the charity and partners gathered together at Action Cancer House in Belfast for a special celebration event.
Having been forced to close its doors in March 2020 due to the pandemic, Action Cancer recommenced its breast cancer screening programme in mid-August 2020 for women aged 40-49 and over 70 (outside of NHS screening age range).
With the need for PPE, extended appointment times and enhanced cleaning of the clinics, Action Cancer Radiographers went the extra mile to reopen this service, providing a safe screening environment for the women of Northern Ireland.
Action Cancer has now recruited a cohort of new Ambassadors for the breast screening service - women who had their breast cancer detected after the reopening and had to undergo surgery and treatment during the pandemic. These women will be sharing their stories during the month of October to spread awareness of Action Cancer’s life-saving breast screening service.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer type among females in Northern Ireland accounting for 30% of all cancer diagnoses among women. The latest statistics state that 1,468 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 307 die from the disease every year.
Breast screening is for well women who have no signs or symptoms and is the most effective tool for picking up cancers at an early and treatable stage. Action Cancer encourages women aged 50-70 to attend for routine screening when called by the NHS.
Screening takes place at Action Cancer House in Belfast and on board the charity’s Big Bus, supported by SuperValu and Centra. This free service is not available anywhere else in the UK or Ireland.
Action Cancer’s state-of-the-art 3D screening technology Digital Breast Tomosynthesis is extremely effective as it can locate cancers which are the size of a grain of rice. The charity detects 6 cancers for every 1,000 screenings, with the majority of women receiving reassurance.
Joanna Currie, Consultant Radiographer at Action Cancer, said: “Like any organisation, Covid-19 brought a massive challenge to Action Cancer. However, I was determined, with the support of the highly professional team of radiographers here, that we would reopen the breast screening service as soon as we possibly could with Covid-safe measures in place.
“It is so heartening to now see how the team’s dedication has resulted in lives being saved. It is wonderful to meet these ladies who have come through their breast cancer journey, who are now cancer free and are here with us to celebrate today. We are also delighted to give ladies a tour of our Therapeutic Suite, showing them what support we have available in Belfast and regionally throughout Northern Ireland to help them in their recovery.
“We have opened up new breast screening appointments for October onwards, so ladies please book your mammogram today.”
Fiona McQuillan, Pharmacist at Gordons Chemists, said: “It is so special to be here today to celebrate these amazing women whose lives have been saved by Action Cancer’s breast screening service. A breast cancer diagnosis at any time is extremely difficult but to have the additional stress that the pandemic brought must have been extremely challenging.
“Gordons Chemists is proud to be partnered with Action Cancer who did everything within their power to reopen the breast screening service five months after the start of the pandemic.
“Throughout October our 54 stores across Northern Ireland will turn pink to raise money and spread awareness of the key message that where breast cancer is concerned, early detection saves lives. A huge thank you to our customers and staff who will be continuing to support this fantastic cause!”
Action Cancer is calling on members of the public to back its ‘Breast Friends’ fundraising campaign, empowered by local online car insurance company its4women. The campaign which was setup in 2019, calls upon friends, family and loved ones to raise vital funds for Action Cancer’s breast screening service through social events.
Kerry Beckett, Marketing Manager at its4women.co.uk, said: “In 2019 its4women pledged to match all money raised by the general public up to a total of £90,000 until 2022. The pandemic obviously greatly impacted the level of fundraising activity for two years. However, we stood by our pledge and donated the full £90,000. To date the campaign has raised over £153,000 and provided 1,500 breast screening appointments.
“We have recently renewed our pledge to match a further £90,000 until 2025. Knowing the generosity of the Northern Ireland public I am confident they will join us in raising these vital funds for Action Cancer and I look forward to seeing a great variety of fundraising events.”
Breast screening appointments are now available with Action Cancer. Women aged 40-49 and 70+ can book an appointment online at www.actioncancer.org or by calling 028 9080 3344. Keep an eye on Action Cancer’s website for upcoming Big Bus visits. Anyone affected by a cancer diagnosis can also visit the website for information on the free therapeutic supports available throughout Northern Ireland. Action Cancer’s therapeutic services are part funded by the Department of Health Cancer Fund/delivered by Community Foundation NI.
If anyone is interested in organising a Breast Friends Fundraiser this October, please contact Leigh Osborne on 07928 668543 or [email protected]. For information on how to support via your local Gordons Chemist, please contact Lucy McCusker on [email protected].