On World Cancer Day, Dr Matti Aapro, President of the European Cancer Organisation (E.C.O.), made the following remarks reflecting on the international challenges and opportunities facing the cancer community and the need to face them with confidence and determination together:
“As the great statesman and polymath Benjamin Franklin said “energy and persistence conquer all things”. This pithy advice comes to mind when thinking of both the challenges and opportunities the global cancer community faces in 2021.
A crisis of the most serious kind faces health systems all around the world with cancer as one of the main issues at the centre of the COVID-19 emergency. With each passing day the data and reports confirm with ever more clarity the devastating impact the past year has had on efforts to achieve better prevention and earlier detection of cancer. Lockdown measures and a pervasive sense of alarm have ravaged HPV vaccination and cancer screening programmes, and unintentionally discouraged citizens from taking health appointments to check symptoms. With very significant drops in cancer cases now reported across so many countries and tumour areas, we know with sad certainty what this will mean. A wave of late diagnosis of cancer is coming. This is a huge challenge we face as a cancer community at the present time. We must attract political attention to this COVID-19 Cancer Crisis and achieve urgent mitigating measures to avert any worsening of an already terrible trend.
At the same time, we are also surrounded by certain key breakthrough opportunities. At an international and political level, I think most particularly about the once-in-a-generation opportunity to achieve global elimination of HPV associated cancers as a public health problem. The WHO’s exciting strategy for cervical cancer elimination is now fully complemented by the matched and extended ambition stated by the European Union to eliminate all HPV associated cancers across its 27 Member States. Every country can do it. Vaccination, Screening, Treatment and Awareness are the keys to unlock the prize. We owe it to the generations to come to not miss this opportunity. Through the dark clouds of the present crisis we can still create a bright future.
Whether on COVID-19, eliminating HPV associated cancers or any other urgent challenge or inspiring opportunity, together, all of our actions matter.”