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Home » Breast Cancer, EU Health, Health

Changing the policy landscape for people with metastatic breast cancer

Submitted by on 14 Jul 2017 – 10:30

 Placing the issue of metastatic breast cancer firmly on the European Parliament’s agenda, Emma McClarkin MEP writes that politicians should highlight the psychosocial needs of sufferers and strive to understand their lives to ensure better policy making

Over recent years, organisations, politicians and patients have worked hard to raise awareness of the challenges faced by metastatic breast cancer patients both in terms of the impact on physical health and their everyday life.

The current challenge at hand is to ensure that this momentum continues and metastatic breast cancer remains high on the political agenda. Through this we can achieve clear and concrete improvements in the screening, monitoring and diagnosis of breast cancer along with policy changes to improve the lives of those living with the illness.

The European Parliament achieved notable success with a 2015 Written Declaration which 9 other MEPs and myself co-authored. It represented an important step forward in the battle against the terrible disease and set forward a framework for notable policy change. One of the major aspects within this was the implementation of a nationwide breast screening in line with the EU guidelines. Whilst it is extremely important that member states continue to promote healthy lifestyles in the fight against cancer, it is also absolutely necessary to ensure regular examinations to detect cancer at the earliest stage for treatment.

Whilst the European Union had presented recommendations for national screening programmes in the early 2000’s, by the time the 2015 Written Declaration was initiated there were a few member states that had fallen short of examination targets and had room for improvement.

There is a clear desire amongst all member states to detect breast cancer early and limit the chances of metastatic breast cancer, however there is always a need to continue to share best practices and raise awareness.

One thing I have realised through my work in the European Parliament is that sometimes you need to go beyond simple statistics and understand what individuals with metastatic breast cancer go through on a daily basis. We should strive to know how they continue to live rich and full lives, whilst identifying areas for improvement.

That was why it was important for me to host a roundtable discussion inside the European Parliament and meet these individuals personally. The Dutch Breast Cancer Association were able to present a screening of “The Book is not yet finished,” a documentary capturing the patient’s perspective of living with metastatic breast cancer and their daily challenges.

More should be done in identifying this illness early and understanding the lives of those with metastatic breast cancer. One issue that was raised on numerous occasions is the lack of data on the number of metastatic breast cancer patients and the sharing of statistics across member states. This will be crucial to ensure that we progress towards better policy that will offer greater benefit to those suffering with metastatic breast cancer.

We must also ensure that information is readily available for all across the European Union on what breast cancer is, how it can be detected, and how it can be treated. Technology must also be readily available to work in conjunction with this.

Member states are making strong and positive strides but it is as important as ever to ensure that this is kept on the political agenda to ensure positive and concrete policy is being created to detect cancer as early as possible and help those living with it.