A Queen’s University cancer specialist will launch a Bill or Rights at the European Parliament on Tuesday for sufferers of the disease.
On this, World Cancer Day, Professor Patrick Johnston will address the parliament in Strasbourg, setting out a standard of care for cancer patients for all European countries to aspire to.
Professor Johnston is the Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University, and is leading the initiative after two years of work by the European Cancer Concord which he chairs.
The Bill of Rights, which has also been published in leading journals The Lancet Oncology and The Oncologist, is underpinned by three key principles: the right of every European citizen to receive accurate information and be involved in their own care; the right of every European citizen to access specialised cancer care underpinned by research and innovation; and the right of every European citizen to cost-effective health systems that ensure optimum cancer outcomes.
He said: “In Northern Ireland we have seen the difference that a Comprehensive Cancer Care and Research Programme can have on patient outcomes.
“Previously Northern Ireland was sitting at the bottom of the UK table for cancer survival rates and thanks to pioneering work at Queen’s, in association with the Health Service, we’re now close to the top.
“This Bill of Rights aims to set a standard that all European countries can aspire to, ensuring that all citizens are entitled to the optimum cancer care regardless of where in Europe they live.”
Professor Johnston’s work has already seen cancer survival rates in Northern Ireland move from the bottom of the UK league table to near the top
Professor Mark Lawler, also of Queen’s University Belfast and the ECC Project Lead on this initiative, said: “Currently three people succumb to this deadly disease every minute throughout Europe.
“With an ageing population, that number will increase to one person dying every ten seconds from cancer in just 25 years. We have to act now to reduce this frightening statistic. It is critical that today, on World Cancer Day, we insist that it is the right of every European citizen to receive an optimal level of care.”
Recent studies have shown that cancer survival varies greatly country by country. Eastern European countries including Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia have the lowest survival rates in Europe. Survival in these countries is below the European average particularly for good prognosis cancers like colon, rectum, lymphomas, and skin melanoma.
Nordic countries with the exception of Denmark, central European countries such as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Netherlands, and some countries in southern Europe have the best survival rates in Europe for most cancers.