The “elections manifesto” was launched by the MEPs Against Cancer Intergroup at a news conference in Parliament on Tuesday.
The short pamphlet, entitled “Beating cancer: Mission Possible,” seeks to address a range of issues, including what it calls “inequalities” in cancer treatment across Europe.
It sets out a list of demands it wants the new Parliament to address after May’s European elections, including improving access to “high quality” cancer treatment and to implement measures designed to reduce the “harmful occupational and environmental exposure” to potential cancer-causing substances.
The manifesto is backed by several current MEPs, including Alojz Peterle, an EPP member from Slovenia, and Czech Socialist deputy Pavel Poc, both of whom have survived cancer.
With more than 3.7m new cancer cases and 1.9m deaths each year, Europe accounts for 23.4 percent of cancer cases and 20.3 percent of cancer deaths globally, says the manifesto.
“This is despite Europe making up only 9 percent of global population.”
It adds, “Cancer will remain one of the main challenges European citizens will face and it is of utmost importance for both national and EU policymakers to act towards the implementation of stronger cancer control.”
“Cancer will remain one of the main challenges European citizens will face and it is of utmost importance for both national and EU policymakers to act towards the implementation of stronger cancer control” MEPs Against Cancer Intergroup
Addressing reporters, Poc, vice-chair of Parliament’s MEPs Against Cancer group, said that given the rising incidence of cancer cases in Europe, it was vital the campaign is fully supported.
He said, “I know some types of cancer are very common, such as colorectal cancer, and can be prevented if diagnosed early enough - in other words, if effective screening programmes are in place.”
His comments were echoed by Peterle, who highlighted rare cancers and also prostate cancer as an example of the need for greater public awareness of addressing the disease.
Prostate cancer, he said, is the second biggest cause of male deaths in Europe but “relatively little has been made of this fact.”
Another speaker was Portuguese EPP member Jose Faria, who spoke of the “significant differences” that exist between EU Member States both in cancer diagnosis and treatment.
He said, “We can speak of EU action, but at national level the reality is very different. In some countries, cancer patients do not even get any screening while, in others, people die from cancer without even knowing they have the disease.”
“This situation is unacceptable and my hope is that the next intake of MEPs after the elections in May, irrespective of whether we [MEPs present] here today are back or not, will also take up this issue so the fight in tackling cancer at EU level can continue.”
He pointed out that there are over 200 different types of cancer and the disease had, increasingly, become a huge burden both for patients and their families and also for national health budgets.
Faria, a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, also voiced concern about the rising cost of cancer treatment which was increasingly impacting on patients.
He told the briefing, “Because the incidence is rising, the cost of cancer treatment is placing unprecedented demand on health budgets.”
"The risk is that some treatments and drugs will simply become unaffordable for some patients. It is vital, therefore, that cost does not become a decisive factor in whether someone receives adequate treatment.”
Croatian EPP member Dubravka Šuica, who also spoke at the news conference, said the manifesto highlighted the need for “patient empowerment,” in other words ensuring that cancer patients participate fully in shaping health policies and decisions.
She said she also wants to see legislation that protects employees in their return to work after cancer treatment.
“It is important that we also work with national policy makers in this regard, she said, adding, “The manifesto we are launching today is just one more step on the road towards, hopefully, eradicating this terrible disease.”