According to the European Cancer Concord (ECC), an initiative involving representatives of patient groups as well as leading oncologists, 3.45 million people in Europe were diagnosed with cancer in 2012, with 1.75 million of them dying from the disease. This means that cancer claims three lives every minute. And as the population ages, this trend is rising.
Gaps in service provision in Europe
As the highly respected journal, “The Lancet” reports in its recent article entitled “Health in Europe”, the example of cancer highlights the growing differences within the countries of Europe. In order to achieve a uniform European standard for the treatment of the disease, the ECC has drawn up the “European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights”. The CCC, represented by its Head Christoph Zielinski, Director of the University Department of Internal Medicine I and Head of the Oncology Department, has also played a key role in its creation.
The central requirements of the bill, being unveiled on Tuesday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, are the right of every European citizen to be given precise information about their disease and to be proactively involved in their treatment, the right to prompt access to the best appropriate, specialist treatment based on innovative research and the right to expect treatment in healthcare systems that guarantee the best outcomes, patient rehabilitation, the best quality of life and affordable healthcare.
Says Zielinski: “The introduction of the “European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights” is a milestone, since there are now finally standards that can provide benchmarks. They give patients a means of highlighting any shortfalls in comprehensive national action plans for cancer monitoring or, for example, the lack of access to adequate care. This will in the long term help to improve and even out the level of care across Europe.”
Focus on the patient at the CCC
The design of the “European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights” is not the only project in which the CCC is actively engaged in the interests of patients and their rights. In order to give patients more political strength, the CCC also supports and promotes so-called “Patient Advocacy Groups”, such as the representation of adolescents and young adults with cancer (PAN) or the advocacy of breast cancer patients (Europa Donna). These patient advocacy groups work strategically to promote the rights of their members. Their focus lies on improving structural issues and lobbying. Patient advocacy groups also support self-help organisations and their projects.
Learning for patients
Another important project for patients in which the CCC is involved is the Cancer School. Inspired by the motto, “Cancer knowledge for all”, experts from the CCC provide brief presentations to provide information about the condition, its causes and its progress, the diagnostic methods used and treatment options available. They are then available in an open discussion forum to answer questions. The next series of presentations begins in May 2014. For information, see: www.cancerschool.at.