Cancer survivor Alfred Sant calls for affordable colorectal screening across EU

Half-a-million Europeans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year • Labour MEP Alfred Sant says all EU citizens deserve affordable screening

Alfred Sant has called for better colorectal cancer screening across the EU
Alfred Sant has called for better colorectal cancer screening across the EU

Labour MEP Alfred Sant has called for better access to screening services, which can boost the survival rate of patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

The former Maltese prime minister, who underwent surgery and chemotherapy to treat colorectal cancer in 2008, said this was the second most common cancer in Europe and survival rates could improve with better screening.

Every year, around 470,000 Europeans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and half do not survive.

The disease is primarily experienced by those over 50 but there has been a staggering increase in those under 50 being diagnosed.

Half of those who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer die but survival rates are greatly increased in countries with better access to screening services

“In the context of discrepancies in access to healthcare, colorectal cancer survival rates are greatly increased in countries that have better access to screening services, especially endoscopic screening and specialized care,” Sant said.

He was speaking at the launch of the European Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month organised by EuroColon at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Countries and regions that cannot provide what should be considered by our standards of today, basic healthcare for their citizens, must be given support and assistance Alfred Sant

Sant survived the cancer ordeal 10 years ago, having documented in detail his experience in a series of articles he wrote in it-Torca. The former Labour leader had faced the 2008 election while still recovering from surgery.

His ordeal at the time had raised awareness on the importance of screening, prompting an increase in people who sought medical advice.

“Unfortunately, as things stand right now, in Europe we still face huge discrepancies between countries concerning the level of colorectal cancer treatment and prevention. There are persistent differences in the survival rates of patients throughout Europe, suggesting that healthcare inequalities within the continent remain a prime reason for high mortality rates,” Sant said.

He called for more awareness and accessibility to preventive care. Sant said European institutions paid a lot of attention to the balancing of government budgets and public debt control, while ignoring the pressures these cause on the provision of public services.

Sant said it was his impression that in some cases public health services were regressing. He said Europe must avoid “a downward convergence in health standards” since this did not reflect the principles of the EU.

“We must therefore insist that if it is time for change in Europe, countries and regions that cannot provide what should be considered by our standards of today, basic healthcare for their citizens, must be given support and assistance,” Sant said.

The chairperson of EuropaColon Jola Gore-Booth congratulated Malta on the highly efficient system it has adopted for the screening of colorectal cancer.

The theme for this year’s Coference was Time For Change, which Gore-Booth said was a clear indication that not enough progress was being made towards implementing a system of colorectal cancer screening across the EU.

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