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Brussels looks to boost cancer diagnosis across the EU

22 September 2022, 22:56 CET
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Brussels looks to boost cancer diagnosis across the EU

Cancer diagnostics - Image Pixabay

(BRUSSELS) - With COVID taking its toll on cancer prevention, detection, and diagnosis, the EU presented plans Wednesday for an increase in the uptake of cancer screening and early detection of more cancers.

An estimated 2.7 million people living in the EU were diagnosed with cancer in 2020 and more than 1.3 million people lost their lives to the disease. According to estimates, one in two EU citizens will develop cancer during their lifetime, with long-lasting consequences on their quality of life, and only half of all cancer patients will survive.

The new EU approach is based on latest available scientific developments and evidence, says the Commission, which will support Member States ensuring that 90% of the EU population who qualify for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings are offered such screening by 2025. The new recommendation also expands population-based organised cancer screening to include lung, prostate and, under certain circumstances, gastric cancers.

Europe's Beating Cancer Plan is setting a new course for cancer screening in the EU, says Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides: "With our new recommendations, the EU Cancer Screening Scheme will be covering cancer types that together account for almost 55% of all new cases diagnosed in the EU every year. Our new recommendations, based on scientific evidence and the excellence developed in cancer research of the last 20 years will reinforce our action across the EU to act early and fill the gap created by the impact of COVID-19 on cancer diagnosis and care. Together we can all make a difference to the cancer trends."

Financial support for the roll out of the new recommendations is available, with €38,5 million committed under the EU4Health Programme and €60 million under Horizon Europe. In addition, the Commission will propose additional funding for cancer screening under the 2023 EU4Health programme. Further support can also be provided from the European regional, cohesion and social funds.

The recommendation aims to increase the uptake of cancer screening for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer to reach the target set in Europe's Beating Cancer Plan to offer such screenings to 90% of those who qualify by 2025. In addition, targeted screening should be extended to other cancers, notably prostate, lung and gastric cancer.

To facilitate more targeted and less invasive screening, the recommendation:

  • extends the target group for breast cancer screening to include women between 45 and 74 years of age (as compared to the current age bracket of 50 to 69);
  • recommends that Human Papillomavirus (HPV) testing should take place for women aged 30 to 65, every 5 years or more, to detect cervical cancer, taking account of HPV vaccination status;
  • calls for triage testing for colorectal cancer in people aged 50-74 through faecal immunochemical testing to determine potential follow-up via endoscopy/colonoscopy.

The recommendation extends organised screening to three additional cancers:

  • Lung cancer testing for current heavy and ex-smokers aged 50-75.
  • Prostate cancer testing in men up to 70 on the basis of prostate specific antigen testing, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning as follow-up.
  • Screening for Helicobacter pylori and surveillance of precancerous stomach lesions in places with high gastric cancer incidence and death rates.

Proposal for a Council Recommendation on Strengthening prevention through early detection: A new approach on cancer screening

Annex to the Proposal

New EU approach to cancer screening - guide

Factsheet: Europe's Beating Cancer Plan – a new approach to cancer screening

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