MEPs Against Cancer
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PRESS RELEASE & PRESENTATIONS for
"MAC Seminar: Understanding and Implementing the European Guidelines for
Quality Assurance in Colorectal Cancer Screening and Diagnosis:
Practical advice for national level implementation"
Press Release MAC seminar 22/03/2011
“We can be the bearers of news – the bad news that colon cancer is still killing well over a hundred thousand men and women in the EU every year, and the good news that this death toll can be dramatically reduced by prevention and screening.”
Mr Alojz Peterle MEP, MAC President
“Colorectal cancer is the second most important cause of cancer deaths in Europe and we need to use these new EU guidelines to develop screening programmes to address this serious public health problem. In addition to this extremely useful expert document, we also need a simple guide for patients which would include basic information about the screening procedures and its benefits. I have started working on this.”
Mr Pavel Poc MEP, MAC Ambassador Against Colorectal Cancer
MEPs and experts discuss implementation of the new EU guidelines for colorectal cancer screening
At an MEPs against Cancer (MAC) meeting in the European Parliament, hosted by MEP Pavel Poc, a group of experts presented the recently published EU Guidelines for colorectal cancer screening. MEPs from Member States currently running or developing colorectal cancer screening programmes presented the situation in their countries. In an open discussion with the MEPS, experts and patient advocates attending the forum, key issues were discussed which could help in the future to make high quality screening programmes available to all EU citizens who may benefit. The European Commission was represented by Mr. Stefan Schreck, head of DG SANCO’s Health Information unit who stressed the importance of the role of the Commission in facilitating the publication of Guidelines such as these. ‘The colorectal screening guidelines, like their predecessors the breast cancer screening guidelines, are one of the most tangible ways the EU health programme can have a direct impact in improving the lives of European citizens.’
Reports on the status of colorectal cancer screening
MEP Alojz Peterle provided an overview of colorectal screening in Slovenia. Colon cancer, called by different names in different member states – bowel, colorectal cancer or whatever else – is a disease that people don’t like to talk about. Screening procedures are perceived as disagreeable or embarrassing, and people hesitate to take up screening opportunities. Mr. Peterle iterated that ‘bowel cancer screening is highly cost-effective, since prevention and early intervention can avoid the high cost of therapy for advanced cancer. Screening can find and remove early cancers and pre-cancers. We cannot afford to do without this.’
MEP Pavel Poc gave the meeting an excellent presentation of the situation of colorectal cancer in the Czech Republic which has the highest rates of colorectal cancer incidence in Europe with an emphasis on patient information: "Discussions with patients show that next to CRC awareness campaigns it is necessary to spread the word about the screening procedure itself. A very appropriate tool for this could be a written or online guide for screenees." After presenting the results of screening programmes in the Republic, he emphasised how much more his country needed to do to reduce the burden of CRC mortality.
MEP Charles Tannock felt that it is crucial that MEPs ‘make statements of support and hold meetings like these in order to provide role models as publicly elected role models’. MEP Krisztina Morvai also felt that people in the public eye should promote screening, and that European actions such as the publication of the guidelines were essential for cancer prevention. Ms Morvai also emphasised the need for positive messages and helping citizens understand the need for screening to increase compliance. ‘It is vital to have pre-test counselling to explain to people what the tests mean and how they should be followed up.’
Dora Constantinindes of the Cyprus Association of Cancer Patients and Friends appealed for help from the expert panel describing, what felt to many as a familiar situation in Cyprus where the Ministry of Health has agreed to implement a screening programme. Unfortunately the programme is on hold as the Ministry of Finance has yet to agree to release the necessary finances despite extensive campaigns by the CACPF to raise awareness about the importance of colorectal cancer which is the second biggest killer cancer for Cypriot women and the third biggest killer among men.
The experience in Europe shows that the process of establishing high-quality cancer screening programmes across a country commonly requires 10 years or more for planning, feasibility testing, piloting and quality-assured roll-out. It is essential that sufficient resources, skilled manpower and facilities are available to ensure that waiting times for follow-up and treatment are kept short and that adequate treatment can be provided. Furthermore, due to the complexity and length of the implementation process, adequate sustainable resources for effective coordination of programme development and quality-assurance are essential.
Dr Larry von Karsa explained that nationwide implementation of population-based screening programmes makes services performing to the high standards available to the entire population eligible to attend screening. Large numbers of professionals undertake further specialization in order to meet the screening standards. Consequently, these nationwide efforts also contribute to widespread improvement in diagnosis and management of symptomatic disease.
Dr Nereo Segnan pointed out that the new EU Guidelines include over 250 evidence-based recommendations which should be taken into account in establishing and evaluating any colorectal cancer screening programme. For the first time, an extensive documentation of the Guideline evidence base is provided in the internet, covering over 750 scientific publications.
The importance of the extensive cooperation between screening experts across the EU, including the new EU Member States, in developing the Guidelines was highlighted by Szilvia Madai. By continuing to share experience and collaborate in quality assurance, Member States can avoid common pitfalls and hence reduce the time and other resources required to improve or establish effective colorectal cancer screening programmes. Providing the scientific and technical support at the European level to facilitate this process is therefore a worthwhile investment.
Professor Halloran explained that we now have a simple means of reducing cancer deaths across Europe, We have guidelines which provide both the evidence and the process on what needs to be done. Economic models demonstrate that CRC screening saves both lives and money. Delayed implementation of the new EU guidelines put lives needlessly at risk.
As countries rally resources for implementation, Professor Halloran stressed the need for an EU Quality Assurance Centre to prosper, support and monitor colorectal cancer screening across Europe.