A European solution to Cancer

Written by Peter Liese on 24 March 2020 in Opinion

Parliament’s new Special Committee will help ensure that the fight against cancer remains a top priority for the EU, explains Peter Liese.

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It is estimated that around 40 percent of Europeans will be confronted with cancer at some point in their lives.

The disease affects not only patients, but also their family, friends and colleagues and, it affects all these people throughout their lives.

Although health issues are in some cases a national issue, the EU does have options and therefore a responsibility. Cancer is a European problem and we need a European solution. This is where we want to start.


The new Special Committee should begin by discussing and communicating the expectations of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan - recently drawn up by the European Commission - and look to support its implementation.

It should also ensure that experts from different disciplines come together and combine their diverse knowledge and experience.

Considering that different areas are affected or impacted by cancer, the Committee brings together experts from different specialised committees of the European Parliament, such as members of the ENVI, ITRE and EMPL committees.

“The new special committee should begin by discussing and communicating the expectations of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan - recently drawn up by the European Commission - and look to support its implementation”

With major challenges such as climate change set to dominate the work of the ENVI Committee, the Special Committee on Cancer will allow experts to focus on cancer and push forward in this field.

This will help ensure that cancer does not lose its priority status in Parliament and that European Green Deal discussions in the ENVI Committee don’t overshadow health issues.

This approach will allow MEPs dealing with the problem to take the necessary time to have important discussions with experts, doctors, patients and other stakeholders.

The aim of the Special Committee is to turn the debate into an inclusive discussion and to take the time to listen to all those concerned.

This will open the debate to scientists who can explain the different causes of cancer, and possible ways of combating it, to legal experts.

They in turn can then explain to MEPs the legal options and limitations in the fight against cancer, and most importantly to patients, who can express their experiences and wishes for EU action.

By involving all stakeholders in the process in a structured way, the Committee can avoid duplication of work and identify gaps in the Beating Cancer Plan.

Bringing the different parties together will also enable Parliament to overcome barriers to cancer treatment between countries, professions and interest groups, speed up the processes and send a signal of European intent to citizens.

The Committee’s approach will focus on discussing every step in dealing with the disease in order to find solutions for all.

This will involve raising awareness of cancer, its prevention, diagnosis and treatment as well as palliative care, ways to combat discrimination against survivors and the challenges facing people working in the cancer field.

With up to 40 percent of cancer cases known to have preventable causes, the EU has an opportunity to reduce the number of cancer cases.

“The Special Committee and its work will show people across Europe, and patients in particular, that the EU is aware of the challenge of cancer and is facing up to it”

There are lifestyle patterns or behavioural and environmental influences that can be changed by European legislation and/or cooperation.

The EU’s potential in diagnosis treatment and palliative care lies, among other factors, in its ability to support research and innovation, which is why experts in this field will also be involved in the Special Committee.

The regulatory framework must also be an incentive for the pharmaceutical industry and especially for non-commercial research to carry out research and innovation aimed at developing new, effective forms of treatment.

We must learn to develop and use opportunities such as e-health and data exchange in the cancer treatment process and ensure the cross-border treatment of cancer patients.

The EU must adapt different processes in cancer screening and diagnosis to the differences between women and men.

Finally, combating discrimination and post-disease limitations plays an important role in cancer treatment.

Among other things, the Special Committee will advocate for the ‘right to be forgotten’, so that they do not have to declare their illness several years after recovery, which could otherwise lead to disadvantages in the post-cancer period. This should be part of Europe’s anti-discrimination rules.

The Special Committee and its work will show people across Europe, and patients, that the EU is aware of the challenge of cancer and is facing up to it.

Europe’s common strength can be demonstrated at all stages of the disease, from prevention, diagnosis and post-diagnosis care to the social rights of people with cancer.

About the author

Peter Liese (DE, EPP) is the European Parliament’s EPP group health spokesperson


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