Now is the time to make prostate cancer a political priority

COVID-19 is likely to exacerbate issues relating to the early detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer,i which are likely to include men with prostate cancer, at a time when health inequalities,ii,iii stigma iv and health system challenges can already lead to sub-optimal treatment outcomes.v We must act now, says the Let’s Talk Prostate Cancer expert group.
The Let’s Talk Prostate Cancer expert group is a pan European initiative organised and funded by Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd

Prostate cancer has rarely been at the top of the political agenda on health, despite being the most frequently diagnosed cancer among men, with over 400,000 new cases per year in Europe.vi

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic dominates the political agenda, and is increasing many of the significant challenges facing people living with prostate cancer. Early data from clinical practice suggests that fewer patients have been seeking medical advice during the pandemic, which could lead to an increase in late or missed diagnoses for cancer patients.vii Furthermore, disruptions or changes to treatment,viii and the severe mental and physical health impact of self-isolation, means that those living with cancer have been among the hardest hit by this crisis.ix

Early data suggests that COVID-19 is more likely to affect men,x and especially black and minority ethnic men,xi so those living with prostate cancer could be more at risk as COVID-19 appears to disproportionately impact the same demographics as prostate cancer.x,xi,xii

We need to use the lessons of the pandemic as an opportunity not to go back to where we were, but to transform early diagnosis services, treatment and care.

 

The Let’s Talk Prostate Cancer expert group is a pan-European initiative organised and funded by Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd. It is bringing together representatives of stakeholder organisations from across the prostate cancer field, including:


• Andreas Charalambous, European Oncology Nursing Society
• Jacqueline Daly, European Cancer Patient Coalition
• André Deschamps, Europa Uomo
• Philip Reynolds, European Association of Urology Nurses
• Hendrik Van Poppel, European Association of Urology

➡️Putting Prostate Cancer on the Political Agenda

The Let’s Talk Prostate Cancer campaign was launched in Brussels in November 2019 by our Chair Tiemo Wölken MEP. There we launched our Call to Action, which sets out practical recommendations that could help to achieve better outcomes for patients.

These include standardising the use of multi-disciplinary and multi-professional specialist teams in prostate cancer care and the prioritisation of research into healthcare inequalities.

We believe that everyone diagnosed with prostate cancer should have access to the right treatment at the right time, as well as a comprehensive care pathway to achieve the best possible outcome. It is also essential that we introduce early detection and prevention programmes to minimise the risk of late diagnoses.

Importantly, policymakers should not lose sight of the devastating impact that advanced prostate cancer can have on patients and their families.xiii Many people with prostate cancer will live with the disease for an extended period of time,xiv so maintaining a good quality of life and facilitating a return to normal life must be a priority.

Today, there are significant variations across Europe; including clinical attitudes and approaches to treatment based on age,xv inequalities alongthe lines of ethnicity iii and socio-economic background xvi and low political prioritisation of prostate cancer.

These issues, compounded by the COVID-19 crisis, also present a unique opportunity for change and improvement in care. We have seen throughout this crisis health professionals and organisations working together in new ways, whether that is increasing the role of Primary Care in the management of cancer, or through innovative use of telemedicine.xvii

This is why we are calling on European policymakers to make prostate cancer a priority and to work with the EU institutions to give Member States the tools, guidance and incentives to ensure they have the best possible prostate cancer plan for their country.

Comment from Tiemo Wölken MEP “Like so many of my colleagues, I became a Member of the European Parliament to change the lives of European citizens for the better, which is exactly what we are attempting to do on cancer. I am especially proud to chair the Let’s Talk Prostate Cancer initiative, because, as the campaign has highlighted, prostate cancer has for too long been an under-prioritised area. I will do my part in the European Parliament to further this cause and make sure prostate cancer is high on the political agenda, and I urge all of my colleagues reading this to do the same.”

➡️Where Do We Go From Here?

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan provides that much-needed opportunity for change. The programme now takes on an increased significance in light of COVID-19, and we have a responsibility to be ambitious about its impact.

Over the coming months the Let’s Talk Prostate Cancer campaign will respond to the consultations and frameworks for the Beating Cancer Plan to ensure the views and needs of those living with prostate cancer are represented.

Later this year, we are planning to launch a new digital tool to support all stakeholders to analyse and compare prostate cancer policies across Europe, to aid the adoption and spread of best practice in the region.

The EU has shown willingness to take bold steps to improve cancer outcomes, and we applaud the ambition of the European Commission. For people living with prostate cancer, this action cannot come soon enough. There is no time to waste – now is the time to act.

To find out more about the Let’s Talk Prostate Cancer campaign or to receive a copy of the Call to Action, please contact the LTPC Secretariat provided by Incisive Health at LTPC@Incisivehealth.com


i Cancer Research UK, How coronavirus is impacting cancer services in the UK, April 2020
ii Lloyd-Sherlock, PG et al, Institutional ageism in global health policy, British Medical Journal, 2016
iii Prostate Cancer Foundation, Black Men less likely than non-black patients to adopt active surveillance, May 2019
iv European Association for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), Prostate cancer: the silent man’s disease,
EORTC, 2017
v Aggarwal A, Organisation of Prostate Cancer Services, 2016
vi Ferlay, J et al, Cancer incidence and mortality patterns in Europe: Estimates for 40 countries and 25 major countries in 2018, European Journal of Cancer, 2018
vii GP Online, Millions of patients ‘avoiding calls to GP’ during COVID-19 pandemic, April 2020
viii Prostate Cancer UK, Coronavirus (COVID-19) and prostate cancer, accessed May 2020
ix Lai A, Pasea L, Denaxas S et al, Estimating excess mortality in people with cancer and multimorbidity in the COVID-19 emergency, April 2020
x New Scientist, Why are men more likely to get worse symptoms and die from covid-19?, April 2020
xi Public Health England, Disparities in the risks and outcomes of COVID-19, June 2020
xii Cancer Research UK, Prostate cancer incidence by ethnicity, accessed May 2020
xiii Orchid, More to do, Identifying and tackling the unmet need in prostate cancer care, 2015
xiv American Cancer Society, Survival Rates for Prostate Cancer, 2020
xv Shumway, D, Ageism in the Undertreatment of High-Risk Prostate Cancer: How Long Will Clinical Practice Patterns Resist the Weight of Evidence, 2015
xvi Peiró Pérez et al, Policy Paper on Tackling Social Inequalities in Cancer Prevention and Control for the European Population, 2017
xvii Jones D, Neal R, Du¬ y S et al, Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the symptomatic diagnosis of cancer: the view from primary care, April 2020

Job bag number: ONC_2020_0059_APE Date of preparation: June 2020

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