Cabinet to consider new €2bn cancer care strategy

Simon Harris’s plan will warn that the number of cases of the disease will double in 20 years

Minister for Health Simon Harris is to say that the aim of the new cancer care strategy is to ensure cancer survival rates in the State will be among the best in Europe. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

A new cancer care strategy that could see between €1.5 billion and €2 billion spent on improved services and medicines over the next decade will be considered by the Cabinet on Wednesday.

The new plan from Minister for Health Simon Harris will warn that the number of cancer cases will almost double in just over 20 years.

While it puts this largely down to an ageing population, the plan will also stress that as much as 40 per cent of cancer cases can be avoided.

Sources last night said there had been scepticism in the Department of Public Expenditure over the cost of the plan, which is expected to come in at between €1.5 billion and €2 billion in capital and medicinal costs.


The strategy will also indicate that the increasing cost of cutting-edge medicines will have to be dealt with by the taxpayer.

Increase in cases

“The number of cases of cancer is expected to increase over the period of the strategy and to almost double by 2040,” it says. “This is mainly due to an increasing older population, as cancer is a disease where the risk increases with age.

“The percentage of deaths attributable to cancer has risen from 20 per cent in the 1980s to over 30 per cent at present.

"At the same time, there are now over 150,000 cancer survivors in Ireland and a greater focus on the increasing numbers living with and beyond cancer is required," the strategy states.

In particular, it says an inherited predisposition to cancer is being increasingly identified through genetic testing.

“Developments in genomics have impacts far wider than cancer, but are key to improving cancer outcomes.

“The challenge is to ensure that the potential benefits of molecular cancer diagnostics and cancer genetics/genomics will be realised for all patients across the 10-year strategy period.

“Advances in molecular technology have resulted in improved cancer diagnosis, the use of targeted therapy and better monitoring treatment outcomes.”

Mr Harris will say that the aim is to ensure cancer survival rates in the State will be among the best in Europe. He is expected to say the previous strategy made great strides and the new strategy sets the bar very high, aiming for Ireland to achieve survival rates that will place us among the top-performing countries in Europe.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.