Public Affairs

We know that healthy choices are easier to make when supported by politicians with the insight to develop effective public policies. Since our earliest days we have worked with politicians and decision-makers to develop legislation that helps us look after our own health.

Our campaigning work includes:

  • New Year, New You

    Cancer Focus Northern Ireland is starting the new decade by encouraging everyone to make a few small changes to benefit you and your family, improve your health and help lower your risk of cancer.

    In Northern Ireland over 13,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year. However, many cancers can be prevented, so there’s no better time to make a switch to a healthier lifestyle.

    Most people who make New Year resolutions break them before Valentine’s Day – often because it’s all about denying yourself and trying to do too much too soon. Rather than focus all your energies and trying to turn your life around in January, why not ring in the changes gradually throughout the year?

    Here are Cancer Focus NI’s handy hints and tips for each month:

     January – Focus on Nutrition.  Be a healthy weight. For most of us, as the amount of fat in the body decreases, so does the chance of certain cancers.

    Eat fruit, vegetables, grains and pulses. Limit foods high in sugar, salt or fat, avoid processed meat and limit red meat.

    February – Increase your Physical Activity.  Try to take 75 minutes vigorous physical activity or 150 minutes moderate activity each week. Do things you enjoy – take the stairs, walk to your local shop or go for a brisk walk during your lunch break.

    Cancer Focus NI is the official charity of the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon in May – you could enter the marathon, fun run, relay or eight mile walk. It’s a great way to exercise and you could raise sponsorship money for Cancer Focus NI at the same time. There’s also the Belfast half marathon in September to work towards.

    FROG 2020 fun run of the glensMarch – Stop Smoking.  Stopping smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and lower your risk of cancer. Plan ahead and you’ll be more successful, so make a note of No Smoking Month in March.

    Smokers can greatly increase their chances of success if they use a stop smoking service and tips such as those provided on

     April – Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.  Stick to those New Year resolutions of a healthy diet, increased physical activity and no smoking and you’ll lower your risk of bowel cancer. If you’re between 60 and 74 use the bowel cancer screening kit when it’s offered.

     May – Take Care in the Sun.  Skin cancer is the most common cancer in this country. Avoid over exposure to ultra violet radiation from the sun or sunbeds.  Seek shade, cover up and use sun protection.

    June – Men’s Health.  The Cancer Focus NI Man Van visits workplaces, leisure centres and sports clubs everywhere, raising awareness of the positive impact that small changes can make to physical and mental health.

    The charity’s Male Quick Fit team check weight and body mass and give tailored advice to encourage men to set their own goals for a healthier future.

     July – Limit Alcohol.  If you drink alcohol of any type, limit your intake. Not drinking alcohol is better for cancer prevention.

    August – Early Detection.  Cancer can be more effectively treated if it is detected early so keep a check on any changes to your body. These may include:

    – loss of appetite

    – difficulty swallowing

    – extreme tiredness

    – unexplained weight loss

    – persistent cough

    – change in bowel habits

    – changes to a mole

    September – Encourage your Children to make Healthy Lifestyle Choices.

    Start the new school term with a spring in your step and encourage children to do more physical activity by cycling or walking to school. Many lifelong eating habits are formed in early childhood so pack a healthy lunchbox with plenty of fruit and veg.

    Ensure your children take part in the vaccination programme for human papilloma virus (HPV).

    October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Cancer Focus NI encourages women to check their breasts regularly.

    A lump may be the most commonly recognised early symptom of breast cancer but other symptoms can include:

    • Any dent, puckering or dimpling of your breasts
    • Thickening under the skin of your breasts or armpit
    • Changes in size or shape of the breast
    • Veins which stand out more than usual
    • Any change in the position of your nipples – pulled inwards or pointing in a different direction
    • Any discharge or bleeding from your nipples
    • A rash on your nipple
    • Any discomfort or pain in your breasts that is different from normal
    • Any new change in sensation in your breasts

    If you are between 50-70 years of age, don’t forget to take up your breast screening invitation. If you’re over 70, contact your GP or local screening centre for an appointment.

    November – Take Care Using Harmful Substances

    Protect yourself in your workplace or home and follow health and safety instructions.

    December – Celebrate Your Successes.  Congratulations – you’ve made several positive changes, taking cancer prevention into your own hands.

    Reflect on the changes you’ve made and the rewards that will last a lifetime!

    For more information visit Talk to your doctor early if you have any health concerns and if you’re worried about cancer, call the Cancer Focus NI Nurse Line on 0800 783 3339 (Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm) or email

  • Our cancer manifesto for NI 2017

    tracy Martin and Roisin, manifesto launch, web

    At the launch of our Manifesto (February 2017)  we called on the Executive to create a fresh vision for cancer and end the complacency that accepts poorer outcomes for local people.

    Our Chief Executive Roisin Foster warned that cancer outcomes in Northern Ireland are on a par with those in some eastern European countries for certain cancers.

    She said:

    “Our manifesto asks all of our political parties to consider what needs to be done to reduce the risk of cancer in our population and to ensure that those of us who are diagnosed with cancer have the best possible outcomes. 

    “What we lack in NI is a well communicated and shared ambitious vision for cancer – from prevention to detection to treatment and rehabilitation. A vision that just won’t rest until our cancer levels are among the lowest in the world and our cancer outcomes the best in the world. 

    “We are asking our political parties to give a commitment to ensure that in the next administration they too will not rest until we have that shared vision, with clear goals that are measured and met, backed up with sustained funding.”

    Click here for the full Manifesto.

    Read cancer patient Tracy Martin’s poignant speech to MLAs here.

  • Equal access to cancer drugs campaign

    campaigning-equal-accessCancer Focus Northern Ireland launched a three month campaign in June 2014 calling for Equal Access to life-extending cancer drugs for patients in Northern Ireland.  Currently there are approximately 40 cancer drugs that are available to patients in England, but not readily available to patients in Northern Ireland.

    The campaign, launched in partnership with the Daily Mirror and with the support of 14 local charities, initially aimed to secure 10,000 pledges of support to be presented to the then Health Minister Edwin Poots by Autumn 2014, but after reaching that number in only 11 days, we doubled the number of pledges. The final number of pledges – 26,000 (20,000 online and 6,000 postcards) – was presented to Health Minister Jim Wells on 7th October.

    At the end of September Mr Wells announced the set-up of an evaluative panel looking into the efficacy of the Individual Funding Review (IFR) – the current drug approval system in NI.

    Cancer Focus NI met with the evaluative panel on 12th Nov and presented a written brief outlining our concerns with the current process and highlighting the objectives of the Equal Access campaign. We have also contributed to the Health Committee’s evidence session with the DHSSPS and ABPI to further investigate the lack of access to cancer drugs in NI.

    An evaluation of the existing IFR system was commissioned by then Health Minister Jim Wells in 2015. The outcome was that the current drugs approval system was deemed not fit for purpose and five recommendations were made outlining ways to improve access to drugs that are not routinely available. The Department of Health held a three month public consultation seeking public opinion on the listed recommendations.   Find out more about the Minister’s recommendations here. You can read Cancer Focus NI’s submission to the IFR Evaluation here.

    On 12 September 2018, the Department of Health announced that cancer patients in Northern Ireland are to have the same access to drugs currently being offered to patients in the rest of the UK. This means local patients can now apply for new medicines which could extend life or in some cases radically improve the quality of life, that they were previously denied access to mainly due to cost.

  • NI Assembly All Party MLA Group on Cancer

    All party group on cancerIt is vital that our politicians make effective decisions about cancer treatment and new policies targeted at the prevention of cancer. The All Party MLA Group on Cancer (APGC) meets to hear important information on areas of significance in relation to cancer and its effect on our local population.

    Cancer Focus NI provides the secretariat for the APGC arranging meetings, speakers and disseminating Briefing Notes and minutes to members to ensure that all are equally informed.

    Members may take action resulting from APGC meetings including tabling questions for discussion at Assembly meetings.

    The APGC has heard from a range of patients, clinicians, researchers and policy developers from the voluntary, statutory and public sectors who have engaged with MLAs to drive forward the agenda on cancer on many fronts.

    The full presentations can be accessed below:

  • Action on Smoking and Health (ASH NI)

    ash-logoWhile smoking rates have fallen in recent years we still need organisations to work together to tackle the current tobacco epidemic.  We provide the secretariat for ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Northern Ireland, which is a multi-agency committee working with the other ASH UK groups to achieve strong tobacco control strategies.

  • No Smoking Month

    no-smoking-dayMake March your month to quit

    No Smoking Month is an annual campaign focusing on one dedicated month to encourage smokers to make a quit attempt.  No Smoking Month is held in March – but briefing days for health professional are held in the November preceding.

    The NI Coordinating Committee drives the national campaign at a local level making it the most successful out of all regions.

    Cancer Focus NI works in partnership with the Public Health Agency, Health Trusts and Environmental Health.

  • European Cancer Leagues

    european-cancer-leaguesThe European Cancer Leagues is a pan-European alliance of cancer charities with a common goal of improving the outlook of cancer control across Europe. Cancer Focus NI is a member and our Chief Executive, Roisin Foster, is a Board member.


    Through our membership we contribute to the sharing of best practice across Europe and beyond.

  • Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy

    skin-cancer-prevention-strategyThe number of people getting skin cancer, including the potentially life-threatening malignant melanoma, continues to rise.

    To address this concern, as part of our public affairs work, we partner the Public Health Agency to co-chair the Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy Implementation Group. Annually we raise awareness of critical issues such as taking care in the sun at home as well as abroad and the dangers of sunbed use.

If you want to find out more about our campaigning activities contact Louise on or 028 9066 3281.