Time to focus on rights of cancer survivors


Sir, – The article by Paul Cullen (“Report calls for needs of 200,000 cancer survivors to be prioritised,” August 19th) emphasises an area of public concern.

Improved clinical services, psycho-social and other supports must be in place in hospitals and in the community for patients who have had cancer. Addressing these deficiencies is obligatory if a compassionate comprehensive cancer service is to be provided.

Cancer screening programmes, improved knowledge about health, more accurate diagnosis and precision oncology (surgery, radiotherapy and systemic therapy) have all contributed to the increasing number of people who are alive and free from cancer.

Long-term survival is increasing throughout Europe. It is estimated that some 4 per cent of the population in Ireland are in this group and that this number is likely to double within the next 25 years.

For these people an additional issue often arises. Many patients having come through the difficulties associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment continue to suffer unfairly in accessing financial services. They are often burdened by discriminatory financial costs because of their previous illness, even though they have been cancer-free for many years.

Their added needs should be recognised and protected.

In 2018, the European Cancer Organisation (ECCO) Summit called for each European country to codify in legislation by 2025 the right of cancer survivors not to declare their cancer 10 years after the end of active treatment and five years if they had cancer under the age of 18 years.

France and Belgium have passed legislation declaring the right of survivors of cancer “to be forgotten” when it comes to applying for financial services such as mortgages, personal and business loans and insurance.

The time has come to affirm these rights in Irish law. – Yours, etc,


(Professor Emeritus

of Surgery,

University College Dublin,


National Screening


Dublin 4.