Discover how MEPs Elena Gentile, Cristian-Silviu Bușoi, and Lieve Wierinck, have been working to ensure breast cancer care and prevention remain a significant policy priority in the EU.
Members of the European Parliament have been working as part of an initiative called ‘Transforming Breast Cancer Together’, which brings together decision-makers and stakeholders to ensure breast cancer care and prevention stay high on the agenda of the EU institutions. Here MEPs Elena Gentile (S&D), Cristian-Silviu Bușoi (EPP), Lieve Wierinck (ALDE), aim to bring the issue of breast cancer and the work of the initiative to the attention of newly elected MEPs as they start their mandate.
Improving breast cancer care and prevention
The results of the EU Elections are in and as the newly elected MEPs begin to set their agendas, improving breast cancer care and prevention should be one of the top priorities for the new Parliament.
This issue is dear to our hearts and has been one of our key focuses in the Parliament ever since October 2017, when we joined forces with several organisations dedicated to cancer and breast cancer advocacy to set up an initiative to transform breast cancer care and prevention in Europe. The ultimate goal of this initiative, called ‘Transforming Breast Cancer Together’, is to improve services for patients in an area where unmet needs are still high; and to reduce the societal impact of breast cancer by elevating it as a health policy priority.
We felt the need to do something more for European citizens affected by breast cancer, as the disease still represents a threat to the European society. Of all European women, approximately one in eight will develop breast cancer over their lifetime; due to its high incidence, breast cancer generates high healthcare costs in Europe. In its advanced stages breast cancer is treatable, however it remains incurable. Relationships on a personal, social and professional level are deeply damaged when the disease is in an advanced stage. Nevertheless, these relationships can be improved with proper treatment and care.
The world of breast cancer
Breast cancer is not only a healthcare problem: it is also a socioeconomic challenge. Inequalities exist not only between countries but also between regions within the same national boundaries. Even though breast cancer incidence is higher in Northern, Southern and Western Europe, the survival rate is higher in those regions compared to Eastern Europe. Within the latter, outcomes are poorer due to late diagnosis, lack of co-ordinated cancer care and low access to systemic therapies.
It is against this backdrop that the ‘Transforming Breast Cancer Together’ initiative has worked for over 18 months on a number of awareness building activities under the concept of a ‘String of Pearls’, where each activity is aimed at raising awareness of pressing issues concerning breast cancer.
To start, we issued a ‘Call for Change’ to the EU institutions, EU Member States and all relevant stakeholders outlining nine key policy demands. These ranged from increased investment in primary and secondary prevention and the implementation of nationwide mammography screening programmes throughout the EU, to the need to improve the quality of life and emotional wellbeing of patients and their families.
Spurred by the ‘Call for Change’, we developed a ‘White Paper on Breast Cancer’ which took a comprehensive look at the situation of breast cancer care and prevention in the EU. The paper focused on the differences in cancer care across European Member States, the importance of diagnosing and treating breast cancer in the early stages, the need for support in the workplace for patients suffering from breast cancer; and the needs of patients with advanced breast cancer.
What do you know about the EU Elections Manifesto?
Ahead of the European Parliament elections in May 2019, we published our EU Elections Manifesto which calls for the following:
- Ensuring breast cancer is screened, diagnosed and treated at an early stage and that all breast cancer patients have access to treatment in a breast unit by a specialised multidisciplinary team;
- Ensuring return to work programmes for breast cancer patients and survivors; and
- Maintaining a favourable environment for the collection of breast cancer data and the development of innovative health technologies.
As a new legislative term is now starting, it is our duty as co-chairs of the ‘Transforming Breast Cancer Together’ initiative to ensure we continue with this important activity. It is only by working together that we can hope one day all Europeans will benefit from the highest standards of prevention, treatment and care. We therefore call on all incoming Members of the European Parliament to support this initiative after the May 2019 EU elections and bring this work forward.
It has been an honour to work with these likeminded organisations and we hope that we will count many more dedicated members in the coming months.
- European Commission Initiative on Breast Cancer (2018) “Recommendations from European Breast Guidelines” Accessible here.
- Luengo-Fernandez R et al. Economic burden of cancer across the European Union: a population-based cost analysis. Lancet Oncol. 2013 Nov;14(12):1165-74
- Bray, et. al. (2018) ‘Global Cancer Statistics 2018: GLOBOCAN Estimates of Incidence and Mortality Worldwide for 36 Cancers in 185 Countries’ CA CANCER J CLIN 2018; 0:1–31
- Abbott, P. (2013) “The Invisible Woman: Unveiling the impact of advanced breast cancer on women, families, society and the economy across Europe”, Here and Now Report, Available at: https://www.wearehereandnow.com/files/here-and-now-report.pdf
European People’s Party (Christian Democrats)
Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Members of the European Parliament