Did you know that Europe comprises only one eighth of the total world population but has around one quarter of the global total of cancer cases with some 3.7 million new patients per year? On 7-9 June, the European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC), the largest cancer patients umbrella organisation in Europe, convened stakeholders in Brussels to explore the issue that cancer patients and their carers face in society today and identify possible solutions.
‘’The most important thing is to empower patients to know more about cancer and the opportunities available to them’’ – Francesco de Lorenzo, European Cancer Patient Coalition Past President.
Welcoming partners, patient organisations and health care professionals’, numerous sessions addressed topics presented by experts working in the field. With the shared goal of empowering those who are in the fight against cancer and related issues, the discussions explored the need to communicate the complexities of cancer and its implications in all aspects of life. As stated by Antonella Cardone, Director of ECPC, ‘’it is time to evolve health care to have a more holistic view of the journey that patients and carers go through and enable a better quality of care and support’’. It is also time to understand that cancer is much more than a death sentence and a disease. There are over 100 different types of cancer and they affect mental health, having huge impacts on the quality of life, even for those who have overcome cancer. Survivorship requires a support system that helps make the transition through the different stages of recovery.
‘’Nowadays we are curing a lot of patients. There is a life after cancer, but patients face discrimination and societal issues’’ – Francoise Meunier, Federation of European Academies of Medicine Vice-President.
The question is, what can Europe do? We can fight cancer through building an integrated system that supports patients through the many obstacles that they face. They can be overcome with research, integrated policy and strategic dialogue between all stakeholders, with patients and carers at the core. What is clear, is that there are opportunities and initiatives underway, as many patient testimonials confirmed. Inspired by patients themselves there are tools and platforms that allow them to take a pro-active role in their journey and choices. The challenge? As explored by Flora Giogio, Head of Sector Health Technology Assessment, DG SANTE at the European Commission is ‘’how to combine inclusiveness and high quality with timeliness and resources available. It is important to recognise these messages on national agendas and not just on EU level.’’
In looking forward, new opportunities are rising from the development of the internet and digital technologies as well as initiatives from the European Commission and Public Health Institutes. Roma Maguire, Professor of Digital Health and Care at the University of Strathclyde, explored how technology has empowered patients to take charge of their journey providing new sources of information while big data is adding a new perspective through specialised treatment targeted to the individual and their specific needs. The new Work-Life Balance Directive is a step forward in recognising the needs of carers and as stated by Efi Anastasiou of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission it ‘’is the first time in EU legislation that the role of the carer is recognised’’. At a national level, Sciensano, as described by Head of Service, Marc Van Den Bulcke, is working on genome sequencing to foster ‘’personalise medicine.’’ Through initiatives like this, improving the general understanding of cancer and making the voices of cancer patients heard, we can change our mindset from reaction to prevention, resulting in a better society long term with improved quality of life and public health.
ECPC would like to thank the outgoing Board Members Francesco de Lorenzo, President, Kathi Apostolidis, Vice-President, Jana Pelouchová, Secretary, Ken Mastris, Matti Järvinen and Maude Andersson, and welcome the new Board Members: Kathi Apostolidis, President, Pietro Presti, Vice-President, Beata Ambroziewicz, Treasurer, Jacqueline Daly, Secretary, Maude Andersson, Robert Greene and Vasile Ianovici.
‘’I am honoured to fill this role, and, although I understand that it is a huge responsibility and commitment, I am excited for what the future will bring.’’ – Kathi Apostolidis
We would also like to thank the outgoing Audit Committee Members Pietro Presti, Chair, Istvan Balogh and Nicolas Philippou, and welcome the new Audit Committee Members: Constantine N. Nicolaides, Chair, James Caldwell and Roberto Persio.
Finally, a special thank you to our past president Francesco de Lorenzo for his commitment, vision and energy. His legacy will remain with us as he fills the role of Chair of the Scientific Committee.
About the European Cancer Patient Coalition
European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) is the voice of cancer patients in Europe. With over 450 members, ECPC is Europe’s largest umbrella cancer patients’ association, covering all 28 EU member states and many other European and non-European countries. ECPC represents patients aﬀected by all types of cancers, from the rarest to the most common.
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