CancerCare marks major milestone in its history

CancerCare is celebrating its 40th anniversary which has seen it grown from a weekly meeting in a Lancaster community centre to providing vital support for tens of thousands of people affected by a cancer and bereavement across North Lancashire and South Cumbria.

The charity will be using the occasion to raise awareness of its services and launch a number of new fundraising campaigns and initiatives throughout the year. As part of the celebrations, it has revamped its logo with a retro ‘80s design and has installed special historical timeline displays, which chart the evolution of the organisation, in each of its centres in Lancaster, Morecambe, Kendal and Barrow.

The charity was founded in 1983 by Professor Malcolm McIllmurray, a former cancer specialist who moved to the area to take up a role as a consultant at RLI and Westmorland General Hospital. His vision was to address a need for increased provision for cancer patients’ emotional and mental wellbeing and he began by offering support one night a week from a hired room at Ryelands House in Lancaster.

The idea began to grow and CancerCare was formally established by Professor McIllmurray and a group of like-minded professionals including nurses, GPs and hospital staff in 1983. Following a major fundraising campaign, the charity purchased its current home at Slynedales in 1989.

CancerCare then moved into Kendal, building on the success of a volunteer-led drop-in group and in 1998 a major appeal raised £250,000 to buy a former NHS clinic on Blackhall Road which is still the charity’s home in the town.

More recently the charity expanded into Barrow in 2017 and opened a new purpose renovated centre in the town’s Duke Street in 2020. It also launched dedicated services on Northumberland Street in Morecambe in 2021 to give people in the town easier access to support without the need to travel to Lancaster.

Since opening, the Slynedales Centre has provided help and support for more than 14,000 people and in the two years it has been running, the Morecambe Centre on Northumberland Street has provided more than 3,000 sessions of therapy for around 300 local people. The Kendal Centre has supported more than 6,000 people while the Barrow service has provided around 14,000 sessions of therapy from more than 1,000 clients.

Chief Executive Alison Stainthorpe said: “2023 is going to be a huge year for us as we celebrate forty years providing strength and compassion for people coping with the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis or bereavement, across north Lancashire and south Cumbria.

“From the first ever CancerCare therapy session in a room at a Lancaster community centre, here we are four decades later with four dedicated centres covering an area stretching from Morecambe to Barrow and with dozens of staff and therapists utterly committed to helping local people.

“It is incredible to see how we have grown from a simple idea of how to improve the mental health of cancer patients, to tens of thousands of men, women and children receiving life changing therapy.  Thank you to everyone who has been with us and supported us on our journey.“

For more information about CancerCare visit

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