Speaking at the launch of the initiative on Tuesday – World Cancer Day – Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described how the childhood death of her sister prompted her to study medicine and become a doctor.
She said, “Everyone has a friend, a colleague or a relative who’s gone through this. Everyone has experienced the same sense of sadness and helplessness. But there is something we can do – individually and collectively. There is much more we can do than we are currently doing.”
“Today, on World Cancer Day, we begin a common path that will lead to Europe’s Beating Cancer Action Plan. We can make a difference with prevention and research, a new data strategy and equality in treatment across Europe.”
The Commission has launched two consultations. The first, lasting three months, aims to gather the views of citizens and stakeholders, help identify priority areas and the scope for future action.
The second focuses on the Commission's “Roadmap for the Cancer Plan” which outlines the context, scope and aim of the initiative.
Called “Europe's Beating Cancer Plan: Let's strive for more", it proposes actions at “every key stage of the disease” including prevention measures, early detection and diagnosis, treatment and care and quality of life.
The initiative was launched in Parliament and the results are due to be released later this year.
“Everyone has a friend, a colleague or a relative who’s gone through this. Everyone has experienced the same sense of sadness and helplessness. But there is something we can do – individually and collectively” Ursula von der Leyen
Every year, 3.5 million people in the EU are diagnosed with cancer, and 1.3 million die from it. Over 40 percent of cancer cases are preventable.
The EU says that without reversing current trends, it could become the leading cause of death in the EU.
The “Beating Cancer” plan aims to reduce the cancer burden for patients, their families and health systems and will address cancer-related inequalities between and within Member States with actions to support, coordinate and complement their efforts.
EPP leader Manfred Weber has thrown his group’s weight behind the plan, declaring, “Yes, I think we can do it: we can beat cancer.”
He revealed a personal interest in the issue, saying, “I lost my brother to cancer. He was three years older than me so I always looked up to him.”
He added, “This Commission plan is ambitious but we must all get behind it and support it.”
Margaritis Schinas, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, said, “Cancer concerns us all, in one way or another. Promoting our European Way of Life is also about values, dignity and synergies; that is what any policy on cancer should build on.”
“This is something that somehow connects Europe. Because together we fight something that affects everyone. Nobody is excluded from this lottery” Janina Ochojska MEP
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, warned, however, that the success of the plan “will depend on the full engagement of citizens, cancer patients, stakeholders and actors at European, national and local levels.”
Polish EPP MEP Janina Ochojska, who is being treated for breast cancer, also backed the initiative, saying, “This is something that somehow connects Europe. Because together we fight something that affects everyone. Nobody is excluded from this lottery.”
Fighting cancer is one of the EU’s health priorities and, launched 20 years ago, World Cancer Day is a global initiative to raise awareness and increase action.
With up to 40 percent of cancer cases being attributed to preventable causes, the EU says there is an important scope for action and potential to reduce the number of cases.
The European Parliament also agrees that more needs to be done to address the issue, with its President David Sassoli saying, “The EU should do more, work harder, push Member States to adopt the necessary screening programmes that help diagnose cancer early.”
Writing in The Parliament Magazine, German deputy Peter Liese, EPP Group health spokesperson, said, “We need to break down the borders of cancer care between countries, professions, sectors and stakeholders. We need to boost the quality of cancer care in all countries and take better care of cancer survivors.”
In the same article, Dr Matti Aapro, President of the European CanCer Organisation (ECCO), writes, “The fight against cancer needs a strong new impetus and ambitious targets. As with the Green Deal, Europe needs to set big goals and inspire change.”