Brussels, 08 Oct 2004
Put access to quality cancer treatment at the top of the health agenda during your EU Presidencies in 2005, was the plea sent to the UK and Luxembourg governments by cancer specialists and representatives of cancer patients at a workshop on 7 October.
The workshop 'Cancer treatment: a priority for patients in Europe', which brought together medical experts, European patients' organisations and key European and national policy makers, highlighted the fact that despite cancer being the second main cause of death in the EU, patients still often lack adequate access to treatment.
'Not everyone realises how much real progress has been achieved in recent years for the treatment of cancer. Why? Because not everyone has access to the latest advances. Availability of treatment is as much a political as a medical decision, and with one in three of the population affected, it is to everyone's advantage to put cancer management at the top of their priority list,' said Professor John Smyth, President-elect of the Federation of European Cancer Societies (FECS).
According to Professor Smyth, Europe offers incomparable opportunities to progress scientific discovery into better cancer management, but it needs to urgently address both the roles of academia and industry in the process and the amount of bureaucracy associated with clinical research.
'Increased numbers of European citizens would survive cancer if the overall community and politicians would support health infrastructure development [...] and provide the funding to ensure that proven treatments are made available without restriction,' he added.
Speaking on behalf of UK-based charity CancerBACUP, Catriona Moore explained that huge variations in access to cancer treatment existed in the UK and deplored the fact that 'there is no mechanism for ensuring that national guidance on cancer treatments is implemented at local level.'
'European governments must put this issue at the top of their political agendas to ensure that patients are given the best choice of treatments available for their illness and that funding gets through to the front line of cancer care,' she added.
The Breast Cancer Resolution, adopted by the European Parliament in June 2003, was presented as the perfect example of how patients and doctors can push forward an agenda and have it taken up at European level.