Press release

Fight against breast cancer in the enlarged EU

Public health - 25-10-2006 - 20:48
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In adopting a joint resolution on breast cancer in the enlarged EU, MEPs call on the European Commission to present without delay the progress report, which it called for by 2006 in its resolution of 5 June 2003, on the steps taken by the Member States to lower breast cancer mortality rates. The joint resolution was adopted with 641 votes in favour, 11 against with 4 abstentions.

Every year 275,000 women in the EU contract breast cancer, and 88,000 women and 1,000 men die from it. MEPs adopted a resolution today on actions to combat this leading cause of death in women aged between 35 and 59 and the commonest cancer in women. MEPs call for measures such as nationwide screening programmes, interdisciplinary breast units, reintegration into the job market and research into breast cancer prevention and treatment.
The resolution is based on three oral questions on to the European Commission by three committees (Environment, Public Health and Food Safety; Employment and Social Affairs; and Women's Rights and Gender Equality), it follows up the European Parliament's resolution of June 2003 which calls on the Member States to set themselves the target of creating, by 2008, the conditions required for a 25% reduction in average breast-cancer mortality rate in the EU and of reducing to 5% the disparity between the Member States in the five-year survival rate. - breast cancer mortality rates very among the EU-25 by over 50 % and the mastectomy rate by up to 60 %.
Calls on Member States to introduce nationwide breast screening
The EP reiterates its call on the Member States to "introduce nationwide breast screening" whereby all women aged between 50 and 69 will be offered a mammogram in line with EU guidelines at two-year intervals.  According to the WHO, mammographic screening can reduce deaths from breast cancer by up to 35 % in this age group.  "With this form of early detection alone, we could save the lives of about 31 000 women a year in the EU", said MEP Karin Jöns (PSE, DE) co-author of the three oral questions in Tuesday's debate.
EU guidelines for breast cancer screening where first drawn up in 1992, still only 11 Member States offer nationwide mammographic screening (Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom). 
Interdisciplinary breast centres by 2016
The EP calls on the Member States to ensure nationwide provision of interdisciplinary breast centres in accordance with EU guidelines by 2016. Treatment in such centres has been proved to raise chances of survival and to improve the quality of life, and breast cancer care of guaranteed quality leads in the medium and long term to savings for the health care system (Now only the United Kingdom provides such centres, and even there it is not fully implemented)
MEPs note that specialised training of all medical staff is essential to the quality of early detection and treatment. MEPs therefore calls on the Commission to point out to the Member States to make use of the possibility to provide further training for medical personnel, in accordance with EU guidelines, via the European Social Fund.
Increasing number of younger women are contracting breast cancer
35 % of women with breast cancer are under 55, and 12 % even involve women under 45. Young women are particularly affected by problems such reintegration into the employment market and inadequate financial problems and specific life-plan problems The EP calls on the Commission to devote special attention the problems of young women with breast cancer by providing information geared to their needs.
One fifth of former breast cancer patients do not return to work, and women who do return to work are often faced with reductions in their income.  The EP calls on the Commission to draw up a charter for the protection of the rights of breast cancer patients and chronically sick people in the workplace, with a view of requiring firms to make it possible for patients to continue in employment during their treatment and return to the employment market after it has finished. 
Research on breast cancer prevention
The EP calls for stepped-up support for research into breast cancer prevention (including effects of harmful chemicals and environmental pollutants, nutrition, lifestyle, genetic factors, and the interaction of all these) and calls for the links between cancer and potential risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol and hormones to be investigated.  
REF.: 20061020IPR11875