Scottish family who lost son to brain cancer back campaign

Sam O'Calloghan  died of brain cancer when he was just five years old. Picture: Brain Tumour Research/PA Wire.

Sam O'Calloghan died of brain cancer when he was just five years old. Picture: Brain Tumour Research/PA Wire.

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A family who lost their young son to brain cancer are backing a campaign to increase research funding of the disease as a report showed patients in Scotland face the worst five-year survival rates in the UK.

Just 13.5 per cemt of brain tumour patients in Scotland survive beyond five years of their diagnosis, behind the 20 per cent rate for the disease in England.

Sam OCallaghan,  who died of brain cancer in 2014. Picture: Brain Tumour Research/PA Wire

Sam OCallaghan, who died of brain cancer in 2014. Picture: Brain Tumour Research/PA Wire

The number of brain cancer cases in Scotland has grown from 375 in 2002 to 443 in 2014, with the number of deaths increasing from 335 to 388 over the same period.

Researchers say the disease lags a long way behind other cancers, with 73 per cent of breast cancer patients and 49 per cent of leukaemia patients in Scotland surviving for more than five years.

A shortage of research into the disease is linked to the survival rates, the Brain Tumour Research charity said in a plea for more funding.

It wants to see the UK spend on brain tumour research increased to £35 million a year, which the charity said would put it in line with breast cancer and leukaemia.

The campaign is being supported by Fiona O’Callaghan, from Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, who lost her five-year-old son Sam to a brain tumour in 2014.

She said Sam’s morning vomiting was initially put down to a stomach bug but he was later diagnosed with a grade three ependymoma.

From the age of two he faced years of surgery and chemotherapy before he passed away at home.

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Mrs O’Callaghan said: “When Sam was diagnosed our lives were turned upside down, we were utterly devastated. How could our two-year-old boy have a brain tumour?

“Sam endured so much in the following three years, as his mum and dad it was just heart-breaking to watch, not knowing if everything he was going through was going to cure him.

“The day we were told the treatment hadn’t worked and no more could be done, time stood still. The pain was and is unbearable.

“I cannot believe that despite brain tumours being the biggest cancer killer in children and adults under the age of 40, there is so little funding and research. It shouldn’t be like this, more needs to be done so other families don’t have to suffer like we have. Give those diagnosed a fighting chance.”

The O’Callaghan family have set up their own charity, Send A Message (Sam), in their son’s memory to raise funds and send gifts to sick children and their siblings.

Brain Tumour Research chief executive Sue Farrington Smith said: “For too long, brain tumours have been a neglected cancer with successive governments failing patients and their families for decades. Tragic stories like Sam’s remind us all that we cannot allow this desperate situation to continue.

“Along with our member charities, we are campaigning for fairness in cancer research funding so that brain tumour patients can see the same improvements in treatments and outcomes that breast cancer and leukaemia patients have. Together we will find a cure.”

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