By Michael McHugh
Around 6,000 women and even more men are expected to be diagnosed with cancer every year in Northern Ireland within a decade, a medical expert said.
The projected increase is due to people living longer and represents one of the biggest challenges facing the health service, officials from the Department of Health said.
A new 10-year cancer strategy is due to be discussed at Stormont with charities and healthcare professionals later on Friday.
Chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle said: "The projections for the future make stark reading."
In the period 2009-2013, there were 4,347 male and 4,175 female cases of cancer diagnosed each year in Northern Ireland.
By 2026, this is expected to rise by 43% for men and by 40% for women - to approximately 6,200 and 6,000 cases per year respectively, Professor McArdle said.
She has been appointed chairwoman of the Department of Health steering group tasked with developing the new strategy.
Friday's meeting will be attended by people with experience of having cancer, as well as charities, healthcare professionals and senior health and social care managers.
Prof McArdle said: "It is imperative that we act now to meet the challenge.
"A fully comprehensive new strategy for the period 2020 to 2030 will help us direct our skilled workforce and resources most effectively.
"It is very clear we will need to identify new ways of working.
"The development of a new strategy is very much part of the transformation agenda for health and social care."
Roisin Foster, chief executive at Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, said it was vitally important for everyone involved, from patients and their carers, charities and other health professionals, to give their views on how to improve services and ensure the best outcome for patients.
"Undoubtedly there is a lot of work to be done but this new strategy is urgently needed.
"Research by the Cancer Registry NI indicates that the incidence of cancer will be over 60% by 2035, so we need to plan now on how to deal with this situation.
"We need our MLAs to carry forward and implement the necessary changes and we'd very much like to see them back at Stormont."