445,000 people diagnosed annually in Europe with colorectal cancer
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“445,000 people are diagnosed annually with colorectal cancer in Europe, and about 215,000 will die each year. These numbers are unfortunately expected to increase considerably. Yet, if diagnosed early, this cancer is one of the most treatable,” former Prime Minister Alfred Sant told a European Colorectal Cancer Conference organised by his Office in Brussels.
Dr Sant reiterated his support towards EuropaColon’s call for a system of colorectal cancer screening across the EU. “As a politician and as a cancer survivor I feel compelled to back this.”
Colorectal cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers and one of the most common causes of cancer-related deaths.
Dr Sant discussed the issues of increasing inequality of health care for colorectal cancer and the need for political-backing. “Investment in preventive health is an investment in the EU’s fundamental values, in social cohesion, and in economic development. This should go hand in hand with efforts to reduce health inequalities, if the overall health and wealth of society are to be sustained.”
He said that recent studies in the US suggest that screening can reduce mortality drastically, citing drops in mortality rates up to 53%. Further, it is evident that the EU has failed to produce proper in-depth evaluation of the available screening options within the Union. Different sources give us different views on the current state of affairs.
“Our colleagues and friends from EuropaColon tell us that people on the ground describe a different scenario than the reports we get from entities such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer.”
The Maltese MEP said that on the 20th of May 2016 the European Commission, answering his written question on the topic, indicated that there are currently population-based screening programmes at a national level for colorectal cancer in 15 Member States and population based regional screening programmes in four Member States.
“I contrasted the EC’s response with information that only France and the UK have so far been successful in providing screening for the recommended age groups. Here the Commission somehow changed their version, stating that the content and coverage of population-based screening programmes actually falls under the competence of the national or regional authorities in the Member States.”
“The Commission’s reply pointed out that “precise estimates of the effect of screening on colorectal cancer mortality at population level are rare,” said Dr Sant.
He added that despite the conflicting information we are receiving, it remains clear that huge disparities exist within the EU in terms of the status of implementation and the extent to which screening programmes are organised. “We are facing this situation despite a number of EU guidelines and recommendations on the matter which have the full backing of major actors here in Brussels.”
Sant went on to say that “ongoing support from the EU remains essential if we want to see such guidelines implemented successfully in all European countries, especially in light of the effects of the economic situation since 2008.”
“We do know that in recent years, against a background of austerity measures that affected most negatively the weakest strata of European society, healthcare spending in many Member States was curtailed at the expense of those who are most in need. We should therefore also think about diverting EU money directly in the field of health care spending, towards countries whose budget cuts impacted healthcare systems negatively, not least in the area of cancer screenings,” remarked the Maltese MEP.
Following Dr Sant’s intervention experts in the field discussed the latest developments as regarding oncology, surgery, screening and awareness from public. The experts echoed Dr. Sant’s message and emphasised the need for further public input towards preventive care on cancer, bridging inequality gaps in the health sector, and sharing treatment innovation at the EU level.
Professor Eric Van Cutsem, Oncology Head of Clinical Digestive Oncology University of Leuven emphasised the importance of screening, quality of care, and integration of new technology all over the EU. “Progress can and is being made, especially in Oncological Surgery, but political will needs to get behind the issue. The possibility of a Centralised Cancer Centre for Europe was discussed as a way to reduce duplication in cancer research and to disseminate information at all levels.”
Mrs Jolanta Gore Booth, Founder and CEO of EuropaColon, hit out at the present pharmaceutical representatives, “at the exaggerated prices the industry is imposing on individual patients and governments.”