World Cancer Day: Europe’s ‘Beating Cancer Plan’ can change the future of millions of families, argues Dolors Montserrat

The current pandemic should not make policymakers lose sight of the fight against cancer, says Spanish MEP.
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By Dolors Montserrat

Dolors Montserrat (ES, EPP) is a member of the Special Committee on Beating Cancer and the MEPs Against Cancer (MAC) Intergroup

04 Feb 2021

The Coronavirus pandemic has affected us all, but in particular those who are most vulnerable. This is the case for cancer patients and their families, whose lives have become even more difficult in recent months. Let us remember that, each year, three and a half million families in Europe receive the awful news that one of their loved ones has been diagnosed with cancer.

During the pandemic, many have cancelled their treatment sessions or monitoring visits out of fear of contagion. In addition, the emergency has meant that many hospitals have been forced to cancel surgery and diagnostic appointments. For these reasons, it is estimated that there will be an increase in the incidence of cancer in the coming years.

This is a tragedy that begets another. Without newer, more effective measures, cancer could become the leading cause of death in Europe. However, the EU wants to rise to this challenge, and so we will do so.

Europe’s ‘Beating Cancer Plan’, which will be presented on 4 February, exactly one year after its official launch in the European Parliament, is an effort - driven by the European People’s Party and led by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen - which can change the future of millions of families.

It is both historic and hopefully a turning point, as we try to build and share knowledge, innovations and best practices and consolidate relations between public administrations, companies, medical institutions, academia and patient communities. It aims to improve public policies so that we can save lives and protect the health of all citizens, while driving sustainable economic growth that leaves no one behind.

Only through unity and solidarity will we succeed in defeating this disease. Solidarity in this area is not a minor issue. In cancer prevention, it is essential to take our lifestyles into account. Obesity and excessive consumption of tobacco and/ or alcohol are risk factors; and more research is needed on how to reduce their impact.

It is clear that those who are economically disadvantaged face greater difficulties in maintaining a healthy diet or in accessing the knowledge they need to improve their health and wellbeing. Socioeconomic conditions can be a barrier to prevention, so we need to take this into account.

“Let us remember that, each year, three and a half million families across Europe receive the awful news that one of their loved ones has been diagnosed with cancer”

Moreover, cancer has a strong economic impact on individuals and families, either through the cost of treatment or through all the expenses linked to the treatment and management, from complementary treatment to travel and lodging. To these costs must also be added the hours lost from work or even the loss of one’s job or business.

Cancer should not become an additional financial concern. This double vulnerability is a key issue, and we are working hard against it in the European Parliament through the MEPs Against Cancer (MAC) Intergroup and the newly created Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA).

The current pandemic should not make us lose sight of other major challenges, including our fight against cancer. Indeed, in this situation we should redouble all efforts, boost research and prevention, and protect those who need it most; because the best way to advance European integration is by putting people at the centre of all our policies. That is the Europe of the people we all want.

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