World Cancer Day: new EU approach to prevention, treatment, and care

World Cancer Day: new EU approach to prevention, treatment, and care
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The European Commission has presented Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan which aims to take a new approach to the prevention, treatment, and care of cancer.

The plan, which was presented on the eve of World Cancer Day, 4 February, aims to tackle the entire disease pathway, from prevention, to quality of life of cancer patients and survivors, with new technologies, research, and innovation as the starting point.

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan will feed into creating a key pillar of a strong European Health Union and will be supported by actions spanning across policy areas from employment, education, social policy, and equality, marketing, agriculture, energy, the environment, and climate, to transport, cohesion policy, and taxation.

It will be implemented using the whole range of European Commission funding instruments, with a total of €4bn being earmarked for actions addressing cancer, including from the EU4Health programme, Horizon Europe, and the Digital Europe programme.

Areas of action

The plan is structured around four key action areas with 10 flagship initiatives and multiple supporting actions.  Prevention will be a major focus of the plan, which aims to ensure that less than 5% of the population uses tobacco by 2040, for example, and to tackle risk factors such as harmful alcohol consumption and environmental pollution. A ‘HealthyLifestyle4All’ campaign will also promote healthy diets and physical activity.

It will aim to improve early detection of cancer by improving access, quality, and diagnostics, and the European Commission will support Member States with a new EU-supported Cancer Screening Scheme that will ensure that the 90% of the EU population who qualify for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screenings are offered it by 2025.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “In 2020, while we were all fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us were fighting a silent battle. The battle against cancer. In 2020, we lost 1.3 million Europeans to this disease. And sadly, the number of cases is on the rise. This is why we present Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan today. The fight of those battling cancer is our fight as well, in Europe.”

Improving access to care

The plan also aims to see 90% of eligible patients having access to National Comprehensive Cancer Centres linked through a new EU Network and will address unequal access to quality care and medicines.

A new ‘Cancer Diagnostic and Treatment for All’ initiative will also be launched by the end of 2021 to help improve access to innovative cancer diagnosis and treatments and a European Initiative to Understand Cancer ( will help identify individuals at high risk from common cancers.

Improving life for cancer patients

The Better Life for Cancer Patients Initiative will be launched to focus on follow-up care, which aims to improve quality of life of cancer patients and survivors by focusing on rehabilitation, potential tumour recurrence, metastatic disease, and measures to support social integration and re-integration in the workplace.

A new Knowledge Centre on Cancer will also be launched to help co-ordinate scientific and technical cancer-related initiatives at EU level, and a European Cancer Imaging Initiative will support the development of new computer-aided tools to improve personalised medicine and innovative solutions.

A Helping Children with Cancer Initiative will further ensure that children have access to rapid and optimal detection, diagnosis, treatment, and care.  Also, a Cancer Inequalities Registry will be established this year to identify disparities and inequalities between Member States and regions.

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “This is first and foremost about people. About celebrating and reinforcing resilience and treating cancer as a disease that can and must be overcome. A strong European Health Union is a Union where citizens are protected from avoidable cancers, where they have access to early screening and diagnosis, and where everyone is empowered with access to high quality care, at every step of the way. This is what we want to achieve with our Cancer Plan – making concrete impact for cancer care over the coming years. For me this is not just a political commitment, it is a personal commitment.”

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