It Can Be Done – Beating Inequalities in Cancer Care. Action Report

10 November 2020

The European Cancer Organisation’s new Action Report It Can Be Done – Beating Inequalities in Cancer Care shines a much needed spotlight on inequity that exists in all parts of cancer care, in all countries in Europe. The report focuses especially on the East-West divide in cancer care, as well as the discrimination that can occur against older cancer patients.

The solutions-focused summary identifies readily available policy mechanisms that can be deployed immediately to bridge gaps and raise standards and outcomes in cancer care across all of Europe, for all groups in society. This includes:

  • Enshrining the 10 key rights of cancer patients set out in the European Code of Cancer Practice as a core tool and paradigm for delivering equitable cancer care
  • Ensuring wide access to reliable data to better identify national cancer control priorities and the accompanying development of cancer policies that truly reflect the local context
  • From this, fully implementing data-driven national cancer control plans (NCCP) in all countries
  • Treating each cancer patient as an individual, not a simple representative of an age category. Cancer care must take individual account of the patient’s health status, associated comorbidities and socioeconomic situation
  • All national cancer plans should include dedicated attention to the needs of older cancer patients
  • Deploying standardised treatment pathways to ensure all cancer patients receive quality care along the patient pathway

The Action Report also includes a call for the clinical trial landscape to better address the current dearth of evidence on the efficacy and safety of medications in older individuals with multiple comorbidities. A similar problem is also identified in respect to optimum radiotherapy schedules for older persons or even the expected outcomes of surgical interventions.

Best practice examples are highlighted in the Report, including the dedicated attention to older cancer patient needs within the French National Cancer Plan, and the long-standing relationship between cancer registry information and the national cancer control plan in Slovenia.

The report has been produced by the European Cancer Organisation’s Inequalities Network, drawing from best practices and ideas that were shared via a special Community 365 Roundtable Meeting on Inequalities on 14 October 2020.

Matti Aapro, President of the European Cancer Organisation, said:

“We have seen that, through determined effort and coordinated policy initiatives, inequalities in cancer care CAN be reduced and enormous progress can be made. The opportunity is there and it is up to us to seize it, by simply following what we know, and has been shown, to work. Plan, measure and do!”

Nicolò Matteo Luca Battisti, Co-Chair of the European Cancer Organisation’s Inequalities Network, said:

“Our Action Report is a great source of inspiration for policy makers throughout the Continent and a collaborative effort from scientific societies, patient organisations, charities and foundations within the European Cancer Organisation. It is unacceptable that patients with cancer are discriminated based on geography, age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic factors, disability or if they belong to a minority. In the report, we set out what are the key priorities that European policy makers should address and simple and evidence-based approaches to ensure that no individuals are left behind throughout the entire cancer care pathway. I am very optimistic that this call to action will be very well received at international level and we look forward to a fruitful collaboration with key stakeholders and to continue to inform the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.”

Commenting on the new Action Report, Hendrik Van Poppel, Co-Chair of the European Cancer Organisation’s Inequalities Network, said:

“Throughout my career I have seen the inequalities that prevail in the burden of Genito-Urinary cancer. Especially Prostate cancer patients that I have treated, while diagnosed too late, have suffered from poor quality of life and stigma because of unequal prioritisation on the basis of their gender. This simply should not happen and men's health needs more attention.  Gender, age, ethnicity, geography, socio-economic status or any other factor should not stop anyone from receiving the best quality care. The ‘It can be done’ report reveals how that can and must change and we all have our role to play in ensuring this happens.”