Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2003-11-18-Speech-2-249"

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". Mr President, Commissioner Byrne, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would like to thank all the members of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy, who have made a valuable contribution to the drafting of this report, which is important in both scientific and social terms. As I have already had the opportunity to reiterate on other occasions, I believe that public health should increasingly be treated as a matter of primary importance in European policies, not least in view of the forthcoming enlargement. This recommendation is the first step towards the harmonisation and coordination of policies regarding the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Sadly, cancer is the main cause of death in industrialised countries, affecting patients, families and operators themselves. The socio-economic impact is therefore enormous, not just in terms of the cost of treating and supporting patients but also in terms of the emotional strain involved. In addition to the human tragedy, the situation causes a continual decrease in the proportion of the healthy population whose productivity and know-how are the mainstay of European society. We can deduce from the most recent statistics that the average age of onset of these diseases is getting lower and lower: the younger the patient, the more aggressive the disease. Thus, the possibility of treating cancer undeniably depends on how early it is diagnosed; besides, late diagnosis of cancer requires aggressive and invasive forms of treatment, which are costly and have a high psychological and social impact. Although the Member States are responsible for health policies, through their national health systems, it is unthinkable that such an important prevention campaign, in both the social and public health spheres, should remain a national or regional project dependent on the economic and cultural potential of each country. The impact of this disease on society should be borne and coordinated at European level, guaranteeing equal opportunities for treatment and therefore good results across the board. The current capacity for radical treatment in oncology seems to depend more on the opportunities for prevention, based on epidemiological and etiopathogenetic knowledge and early diagnosis, rather than on surgical techniques and radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. For example, we might take the example of gastric carcinoma, for which the five-year survival rate ranges between 95% in patients with an intramucosal carcinoma to less than 10% in patients with an advanced invasive carcinoma, despite therapy. On the one hand, a correct and adequate screening needs a maximum capacity for identifying even the smallest lesions (sensitivity) and a good capacity for distinguishing them from benign lesions (specificity) and to ensure that the diagnostic investigation is non-invasive for the patient and itself entails an almost zero risk of damage, since the procedures are, by definition, carried out on asymptomatic individuals, who are only potentially ill. Of course, the new instruments for early diagnosis, before being offered at European level, should be examined and validated carefully by means of trials. Last but not least, the excellence of ‘good practice’ in screening should be checked by analysing the mortality figures collected in all Member States and preferably entered in a European databank. Financial resources must be mobilised to increase the number of diagnostic centres and ensure that the workload entailed in screening does not jeopardise the quality of the testing or increase waiting times, which would lead to a deterioration in the quality of care for patients already suffering from cancer. It is therefore essential that European action is organised on four fronts: firstly, information and health education for European citizens; secondly, carrying out forms of screening which have already proven their worth; thirdly, periodic checks on the quality of screening; fourthly, research into the applicability of new screening methods. This recommendation will allow Europe to take unified action against what is a widespread, cruel and socially destructive disease. The urgent need for strategic action to combat cancer at European level is demonstrated by the alarming etiological fact that one European in four has or will have a malignant tumour in the course of their lives. Finally, in addition to European-level screening there ought to be guidelines for the treatment of diseases."@en1

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