“Disparities across European countries in access to cancer care and cancer survival rates are no longer acceptable. The mission of the European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) is to establish a European Cancer Plan which guarantees an improved standard of care for European cancer patients according to Article 20 of the Council Conclusions on reducing the burden of cancer (Luxembourg, 10 June 2008). To avoid disparities, we also need to find the minimum requirements for acceptable care following the EUROCARE and EUROCHIP results”, said Francesco de Lorenzo, President of the ECPC.

The conference on “How uniform is cancer care in Europe?” organised by the ECPC and the Organization of European Cancer Institutes (OECI), took place in the European Parliament with the support of Members of the European Parliament Patrizia Toia, Alojz Peterle and Nessa Childers and brought together experts in oncology, patients, decision-makers and physicians to advance responses to cancer care disparities across Europe.

Cancer survival is a key measure of the effectiveness of health-care systems. Speakers at the conference elaborated on the reasons for these differences. “The application of improved therapeutic protocols and tools may only partially explain the differences in survival trends among countries. Budget pressures are another factor affecting standards of care together with the organization of healthcare delivery or training of physicians”, highlighted Patrizia Toia.

‘There continues to be an alarming lack of knowledge both of the risks of cancer and the opportunity for cancer screenings and only through continuous education of these facts will we be able to witness a higher rate of cancer survivors’, added Nessa Childers, Vice-President of the MAC Group.

Healthcare delivery reform is a continuous effort of national and regional authorities across Europe. In 2012, just 3.45 million people were diagnosed with cancer and 1.75 million died of cancer. With an aging population, the burden that cancer will impose on our societies will increase. Across European countries, cancer is already the leading cause of premature death.

One of the solutions suggested at the conference was to reduce the fragmentation of high quality cancer services and instead concentrate clinical cancer care within hospital setting and non-hospital settings. “On an European scale this is reflected in the growing interest in accreditation and designation for comprehensive cancer centers in order to align the accreditation systems already adopted at national level. The OECI Accreditation and Designation system is cancer related and respects the increased need for patient-centeredness”, said Wim van Harten, President, OECI.

Coinciding with World Cancer Day, on 4th February 2014, the ECPC launched a Call to Action appealing for a comprehensive European cancer plan in response to the latest study published by EUROCARE –a cooperative study of population-based cancer survival rate- that shows “persistent differences between countries for cancer survival”. At the end of the meeting, the Call to Action was signed by different MEPs that pledged to take into consideration the requests of ECPC.