Political action is required across the EU to improve the outcomes of people living with prostate cancer. This starts with concrete action plans - at the EU level and in European capitals - to put prostate cancer higher up the political agenda.
While prostate cancer is mentioned in the national cancer strategy of most, but not all, EU countries, it does not always receive the prominence or focus that the scale and impact of prostate cancer makes necessary. For example, in France, prostate cancer is mentioned four times in the national cancer strategy, compared to 25 mentions, and a separate chapter, for breast cancer,1 despite more new cases of prostate cancer than breast cancer in 2018.2
The LTPC Digital Atlas shows that out of all EU governments with a national cancer strategy, only four countries - Austria, Estonia, Germany and the UK (England)3, 4, 5, 6 - have put in place specific, tracked targets on prostate cancer, for example to increase the proportion of patients surviving with prostate cancer beyond five years over a certain threshold.4
We believe that all European countries should have in place an ambition specific to prostate cancer that is measurable and achievable.
The lack of a political focus on prostate cancer is clear from research15 into the political prioritisation of prostate cancer versus breast cancer. This shows that in five European countries - the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy - the number of political debates, discussions and groups related to breast cancer is always higher than the number for prostate cancer.7, 8, 9, 10, 11
The same is true for the European Union with a European Commission Initiative on Breast Cancer and European Commission guidelines on breast cancer,12 but no equivalent focus on prostate cancer. The Beating Cancer Plan13 and Cancer Mission14 provide an excellent opportunity to ensure a renewed focus on prostate cancer.
At national level, we urge policymakers to review the level of focus on prostate cancer within cancer strategies and also ensure the voice of prostate cancer patients is effectively heard during political discussions around health and cancer.
Campaigners, clinicians, industry and patients all have a role to play in highlighting the challenges faced by prostate cancer patients and how these can be better addressed, but support must also be present in the political system, which has the means to solve and improve those issues.
République Française. Plan Cancer 2014-2019. Accessible at https://solidarites-sante.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/2014-02-03_Plan_cancer-2.pdf (last accessed September 2020)
2 The Global Cancer Observatory. France. 2019. Accessible at https://gco.iarc.fr/today/data/factsheets/populations/250-france-fact-sheets.pdf (last accessed September 2020)
3 Bundesministerium für Gesundheit. Krebsrahmenprogramm Österreich. 2014. Accessible at https://www.iccp-portal.org/system/files/plans/AUT_B5_krebsrahmenprogramm.pdf (last accessed September 2020)
4 Estonia National Cancer Strategy 2007-2015. 2007. Accessible at http://www.epaac.eu/from_heidi_wiki/Estonia_National_Cancer_Strategy_2007-2015_English.pdf (last accessed September 2020)
5 Bundesministerium für Gesundheit. Nationaler Krebsplan. 2017. Accessible at https://www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/fileadmin/Dateien/5_Publikationen/Praevention/Broschueren/Broschuere_Nationaler_Krebsplan.pdf (last accessed September 2020)
6 Independent Cancer Taskforce. Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015-2020. 2015. Accessible at https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/sites/default/files/achieving_world-class_cancer_outcomes_-_a_strategy_for_england_2015-2020.pdf (last accessed September 2020)
7 In the UK between January 2015 and January 2020, there were 3 parliamentary debates and 136 parliamentary questions on prostate cancer, as well as 7 mentions in Department of Health communications and 42 in the UK’s four national cancer strategies. On the other hand, there were 10 parliamentary debates and 431 parliamentary questions on breast cancer, as well as 8 mentions in mentions in Department of Health communications and 115 in the UK’s four national cancer strategies.
8 In France between January 2015 and January 2020, there were 69 parliamentary questions on prostate cancer and 95 on breast cancer. Breast cancer was mentioned twice in Ministerial debates, but prostate cancer was not mentioned in any.
9 In Germany between January 2015 and January 2020, there was one parliamentary debate on prostate cancer and was mentioned four times in parliamentary reports. On the other hand, there were 6 parliamentary debates on breast cancer and 16 mentions in parliamentary reports. Prostate cancer is mentioned 5 times in the national cancer plan, compared to 14 mentions of breast cancer.
10 In Spain between January 2015 and January 2020, there were 37 mentions of breast cancer and 8 mentions of prostate cancer in parliamentary debates, while there were 3 parliamentary questions on breast cancer and none on prostate cancer.
11 In Italy between January 2015 and January 2020, there were 21 parliamentary debates on prostate cancer compared to 31 on breast cancer in the Italian Parliament. 90 parliamentary questions were asked on breast cancer versus 51 on prostate cancer.
12 European Commission Initiative on Breast Cancer (ECIBC). European guidelines on breast cancer screening and diagnosis. Last updated May 2020. Accessible at: https://healthcare-quality.jrc.ec.europa.eu/european-breast-cancer-guidelines (last accessed September 2020)
13 European Commission. Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. 2020. Accessible at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12154-Europe-s-Beating-Cancer-Plan (ast accessed September 2020)
14 European Commission. Mission area: cancer. Accessible at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/horizon-europe-next-research-and-innovation-framework-programme/missions-horizon-europe/cancer_en#:~:text=A%20mission%20in%20this%20area,quality%20of%20life%20after%20treatment (last accessed September 2020)
15 An internal analysis of the political prioritisation of prostate cancer compared to breast cancer across Europe was undertaken by assessing mentions of both cancers in national cancer plans of EU Member States and the UK