Beca: the importance of screening and early detection to fight cancer
On March 18, the European Parliament BECA Committee held a public hearing on saving lives and improving patient outcomes: Why screening and early detection of cancer matter. During the event, guest speakers underlined the importance of screening and early detection, noting that adequate provision of services in this regard would increase survival rates and also reduce treatment related costs. In this context, experts stated that there were discrepancies both within and between countries when it came to access to screening and early detection, with numerous MEPs underlining that all at risk groups should have ease of access. The role of quality data was also cited as being central to improving cancer patient outcomes and it was noted that some Member States’ interpretation of GDPR rules was resulting in a lack of cross-border data sharing.
BECA Chair Bartosz Arłukowicz (EPP, PL) noted the screening tests were one of the pillars of the EU Beating Cancer plan. More cancer types were to be added to current screening and the idea was to improve access and early diagnoses to screening mechanisms
Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (RE, FR), Rapporteur for the file, said that early diagnose of cancer must be stepped up, especially given the issues posed by the Covid crisis. The repercussion of Covid had yet to be seen and healthcare systems must be ready. She welcomed the European Cancer Plan, as well as the setting up of new screening programs. This would allow for national detection programs and for inequalities to be reduced. She hoped that parliament could improve on Commission proposals. A structure which allowed for monitoring and collecting data would also have to be rolled out. This system should be based on clear criteria, as established by the permanent monitoring structure. National centres must also be able to exchange information and carry out scientific and medical cooperation. Increasing citizens’ involvement would also be a good idea, such as through European awareness raising days and communication campaigns. There should be one cancer registry per European region and this should also allow for ascertaining incidences of inequality, for example. National registries must also be interoperable at the European level. Confidentiality and transparency must also be present regarding the use of AI and the treatment of data
BECA Chair Bartosz Arłukowicz (EPP, PL) said it was time to decide whether the EU would face the challenges and combat cancer or not. It was either a yes or no answer. On the Council screening programme, access must be available to everyone
Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (RE, FR), Rapporteur for the file, concluded restated that early screening is the best weapon to fight cancer and there is a lot of room for improvement. During 2020, 25 Member States had introduced screening for breast cancer in their national cancer plans, 22 had introduced screening for cervical cancer and 20 for colorectal which was good news. However, many programmes had not been fully implemented and the cover of the target population varied from 5-90 percent for breast cancer, for example. To remedy such differences, cancer screening systems would have stricter rules regarding quality and governance issues. New technologies should also be taken into account concerning screening and they should continue to benefit from scientific progress. New screening programs for other types of cancer should also be included in the recommendations, such as prostrate and stomach cancers
BECA Chair Bartosz Arłukowicz (EPP, PL) concluded pointing out that geography should not determine whether someone had access to adequate screening or not and access to screening must be available for all at risk groups.