Action Cancer was founded by oncologist, Dr.
George Edelstyn, in 1973. The Action Cancer House was purchased three
years later in 1976 to support patients during treatment. It is now the centre
for breast cancer research in Northern Ireland.
Action Cancer is Northern Irelands leading local
cancer charity. Their
mission is saving lives and supporting people and they do this through cancer
awareness, prevention, detection, and support. Every year Action Cancer helps save and support
50,000 people across Northern Ireland through the delivery of their services.
These are some of the
services Action Cancer provides:
free mammograms (digital breast screenings that
detect early stage breast cancer)
M.O.T. health checks for both men and women over
complementary therapies and pain relief
therapeutic services such as counselling,
coaching, and support groups
information and advice on cancer, health, and
education and prevention programmes
health promotion programmes
research into cancer
Campaigning and lobbying on cancer related
issues to develop legislation and policy in Northern Ireland e.g. the bowel
cancer screening campaign in 2006 and the no smoking in cars ban in 2010.
These services are delivered
through the Action Cancer House, where I was situated, and on the Big Bus,
which travels throughout Northern Ireland to roughly 235 locations each year.
The organisational chart I
received during my induction in week two detailed the organisations structure.
Action Cancer is comprised of three broad sectors;
During my placement, I
worked in the professional services sector, more specifically, in research and
evaluation. My placement mentor, Caroline Hughes, is the research and
evaluation officer and director of research and evaluation and health
promotions. I worked with Caroline and alongside the health promotions officers
and students in the health promotions department.
There is a
total of 82 members of staff/students employed at Action Cancer. Volunteers
also contribute greatly to Action Cancer. 400 volunteers work with Action Cancer, contributing
almost 1,000 hours of donated time to various areas within the organisation.
Volunteers are involved in every area of the organisation and help in shops,
with fundraising, with local fundraising groups, as peer mentors, in
therapeutic services, in the finance department, at reception, at the tea bar,
and with the council of management.
Action Cancer place specialises
in breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in females:
approximately 1,300 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in
Northern Ireland and roughly 340 of them will lose their lives to it (breast
cancer care, 2015). Regular screening and breast awareness are the best ways to
reduce these numbers.
Breast screening can
detect changes which might not be seen or felt during a breast examination and is
available at the Action Cancer House (Monday – Friday) and onboard the Big Bus
(Tuesday – Saturday). Action Cancer is the only charity in Europe to offer
screening to women who fall outside the NHS range of 50-70. Screening is free
of charge but costs Action Cancer £80 per screening.
Action Cancer began screening women for breast
cancer in 1978 – this was the first-time breast screening was introduced in
Northern Ireland. Action Cancer has provided breast screenings for 135,000
women since. In 2015/2016 Action Cancer screened 10,787 women for breast
cancer and for every 1,000 screenings 6 women have their cancer detected when
it may have gone unnoticed.
Funding pressure is the
main constraint on the organisation’s development. Action Cancer is under
pressure to self-fund (on the basis of donations) £3.5 million per year in
order to deliver their services. Action Cancer doesn’t receive government funding so relies entirely on
donations from the public. Because the organisation is funded through
donations it is important to make sure the money is being spent wisely.
Action Cancer lists providing
proven services that reduce risk, raise awareness, save lives and provide
support to people affected by cancer and effectively managing resources and being
financially strong as two of their key principles in the strategic plan (see
appendix). To do this Action Cancers research and evaluation department assess
current programmes and services to make sure they are useful. This was the role
I undertook whilst doing my placement at the Action Cancer research and
The programme I evaluated
was the Why Weight? lifestyle change programme. My report and assessment would
help determine the programme’s success and establish whether it was a worthwhile
use of funds.