Underrepresented Communities Scoping Award 2021

Suzanne Guerin

The Irish Cancer Society are delighted to announce that it has awarded Prof Suzanne Guerin the Underrepresented Communities Scoping Award 2021. 

Cancer impacts the lives of everyone, but certain individuals are more likely to be affected by cancer when compared with the entire population. Although the number of people dying from cancer is getting smaller, the number of people being diagnosed is still steadily increasing, and there are certain groups within Irish society that are much more likely to have poorer outcomes with cancer. 

The Society envisions that by 2025, three out of every four cancer patients will survive their diagnosis and that everyone affected by cancer will have access to world-class treatment, care and support no matter who you are or where you come from. Therefore; in line with this vision, a key priority of the Irish Cancer Society is to identify ways in which we can overcome the barriers affecting socially excluded individuals and communities, in order to ensure equity of access to cancer care and services. 

As an initial step to this priority, we first want to identify who are these individuals and communities in Ireland that are having poor cancer outcomes. Nationally and internationally there is very little research defining these socially excluded groups, and the reasons why these groups experience excessively poorer survival. Research has shown that there may be a link between cancer incidence and socioeconomic disadvantage (or poverty); however, the reasons why some people are more effected by cancer is likely due to many causes including social, psychological, and economic factors.

Given this lack of information, and in line with the Irish Cancer Society Strategic Plan, we aim to “inform and influence public policy” in relation to all aspects of cancer. With this in mind, the aims of this specific call is to fund a research proposal to scope out and examine the characteristics of people in Ireland who experience especially poor outcomes with cancer and to identify the barriers that exist to accessing cancer services.

Prof Guerin and her excellent team will examine the experience of cancer and cancer treatment among adolescents and young adults in Ireland. There are inherent challenges associated with a cancer diagnosis and these challenges are further complicated by the unique time of physical, emotional, and social development experienced by adolescents. No two people are alike and it’s important that we recognise that our distinct identities and backgrounds may influence our access to cancer care and outcomes following treatment. 

As an initial step, the research carried out by Prof Guerin will gather much needed information on the groups of adolescents and young adults who are experiencing poorer cancer outcomes. Once the information is collected; recommendations for improving services can be shared with those who facilitate these services to ensure equity of access for all and improve outcomes for those underserved groups who were identified.