MLAs from several parties commended East Antrim member Oliver McMullan for a forthright and impassioned plea for action on prostate cancer.
The Sinn Fein representative, who is undergoing treatment for the disease, earned unanimous backing last Tuesday night for an Assembly motion that calls on Health Minister Edwin Poots to fund a campaign highlighting the dangers of the disease for men, as well as an aftercare package for patients, along with an investigation into a high prevalence rate in Larne and the Glens of Antrim.
“I raised the issue of introducing a screening programme for those men who have undergone treatment for the condition,” he explained.
“At the moment, once you have completed your programme, patients are left to manage on their own. It is important that we introduce a system that these patients are routinely monitored to ensure that the cancer has not come back.”
Mr McMullan added: “I also asked the minister to introduce a publicity campaign to heighten awareness of the symptoms of prostrate cancer, as early intervention can save lives.”
Mr Poots echoed Mr McMullan’s appeal for “all men to have regular check-ups at their doctors, as many illnesses can only be diagnosed through a thorough check up, including blood tests”.
Mr McMullan said symptoms of the cancer include needing to urinate more frequently during the night; needing to rush to the toilet; difficulty in starting to urinate; straining or taking a long time to urinate; feeling that the bladder has not emptied fully; pain when passing urine; and, in some of the rarer forms, blood in the urine.
He also told MLAs: “My area of the Glens in the East Antrim constituency has a very high rate of prostate cancer. The figures are also very high in the Larne area. That needs to be looked at.”
DUP MLA Jim Wells said at Stormont: “Any of us who listened to Mr McMullan’s contribution could not fail to be impressed by his honesty and bravery in raising his journey with prostate cancer.” East Antrim UUP member Roy Beggs Jnr thanked Mr McMullan for bringing his personal experience to the chamber to highlight the issue and make more people aware of the condition.
Minister Poots told the House: “The Public Health Agency is currently planning a cancer awareness campaign to be launched in 2014-15.”