Many Donegal cancer patients still receiving treatment elsewhere

by Louise Doyle

A LEADING Donegal cancer campaigner has warned that despite the high numbers of patients receiving treatment at a cross-border centre, many are still forced to travel further afield.

Chairperson of Donegal Action for Cancer Care (DACC), Betty Holmes said laurels cannot be rested upon when it comes to providing cancer treatment.


Figures released to the Donegal News through the Freedom of Information Act reveal 1,353 Donegal patients have been treated at the North West Cancer Centre (NWCC) at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry since 2017.

The figures were highest last year, when 268 Donegal patients received cancer treatment at NWCC.

The £66m centre opened in November, 2016, with an international team of experts at the helm and some of the most advanced technology for treating cancers available anywhere in the world.

Men with prostate cancer were the first to receive radiotherapy there, followed by breast cancer patients in March 2017.

According to the figures, 230 Donegal patients were treated for cancer at NWCC in 2022, down 23 from the year previously when 253 patients were treated in 2021.

During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, 200 Donegal patients received cancer treatment at NWCC, while 208 patients were treated for cancer in 2019.

At the beginning of cancer treatment services at NWCC in 2017, 50 patients from Donegal were treated. This figure rose 188 per cent the following year, when 144 patients received cancer treatment in 2018.


Commenting on the figures, Ms Holmes welcomed the number of cancer patients who were able to avail of their treatment in NWCC, which, she said, removed additional pressures at such a difficult time for patients and their families.

“From a DACC point, we continue to welcome the fact that Donegal cancer patients are able to avail of their cancer treatment at the North West Cancer Centre in Derry.

“This allows patients to avail of their treatment closer to home and does not have the same major family and financial implications that having to travel long distances has on a patient.”

Ms Holmes said the overall number of Donegal patients who have benefited from treatment in NWCC since 2017 was “positive”.

She said the annual breakdown of the number of patients who received treatment in NWCC also showed a “steady increase”. But, she warned that efforts must continue to ensure all patients can be treated without delay.

“Looking at the annual figures, it is good to see a steady increase in the numbers who, when, they needed to, were able to avail of the service in such an excellent cancer centre. It is also important to remember that not all cancers can be treated at the NWCC, so some Donegal patients will still have to travel.”

DACC was part of a 38-person delegation who travelled to the European Parliament in Brussels in 2016 discuss their concerns for cancer patients in Donegal.

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