Paula Bradshaw MLA, Alliance Party Health Spokesperson, has warmly welcomed two announcements from the Department of Health today regarding prevention (HPV) and screening (bowel).
Despite a Minister still not being in place, Paula - the Chair of the All Party Group on Cancer - said this breakthrough today comes from the hard work all those who have lobbied for these changes to be made in Northern Ireland.
She added: "I received a letter from Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, on 4th August 2018, in which he stated that he had directed that preparatory work be commenced on the possible introduction of HPV in boys in Northern Ireland, to allow for early consideration of the issue by an incoming Minister.
"I wrote again to him last week, to support the British Dental Association and Cancer Focus NI's campaign for the roll out of the vaccination programme for adolescent males; and so I am pleased that the collective pressure on him to act - despite there not being a Health Minister to sign this off - has resulted in this announcement today.
"The introduction of a new procedure for detecting the early signs of bowel cancer is also amazing news. I met with Bowel Cancer UK in mid-March and we discussed the benefits from this new FIT screening programme; however, there is still work to be done, including the lowering of the age of screening from 60 to 50 in Northern Ireland, as was announced for England in August 2018.
"I say frequently we will not know the long-term impact from delays in such decisions, especially as regards cancer, from there not being a Health Minister in place; for example, we are awaiting the introduction of a ban in smoking in cars with children present, something that was introduced in England in 2015. We do not know the impact from not ring-fencing the 'sugar tax' levy from drinks, for sport in schools, will have on long-term obesity. Plus, we need to see the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol, as per Scotland. All of these are risk factors for cancer and we need to act urgently to reverse the increase in incidents of this life-changing, and unfortunately in a lot of cases, deadly disease."