The Lung Cancer Policy Network welcomes the inclusion of lung cancer in the EU Council Recommendation: a new approach on cancer screening. We now urge Member States to use the existing evidence and the EU Council guidance as a catalyst to advance the implementation of effective lung cancer screening programmes.
What are the key positive outcomes of the updated cancer screening recommendations?
The inclusion of screening for lung cancer is an important outcome because lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the EU. The updated recommendation is a significant step forwards for the lung cancer community, which has spent several years advocating for lung cancer screening to be recognised for its benefits. Member States that act on this recommendation could significantly improve survival from lung cancer and help shift it from a fatal condition to a treatable one in many people.
We are also pleased to see that the Recommendation clearly calls for EU Member States to progress towards the implementation of targeted lung cancer screening programmes. Furthermore, there will be financial support for EU Member States to assist the implementation of the Recommendation. Funding and capacity building will be provided by the EU4Health Programme, Horizon Europe, the European Social Fund Plus and the Regional Development Fund.
Commissioner Kyriakides highlighted the significant benefits of early detection, and the potential contribution of screening to this, in her speech at the EPSCO Council this month. She recognised that while EU Member States must give due consideration to the national resources and capacity needed to implement screening, they should also recognise that this investment will avoid significant costs linked to late-stage diagnosis, such as those relating to treatment and quality of life.
Where could the Recommendation have gone further?
Although this Recommendation represents a positive advance, we were disappointed with the downplaying of extremely compelling evidence in support of lung cancer screening acknowledged in the SAPEA report and the Commission recommendations. As a Network, we have previously highlighted the strong evidence to support the case for implementation and the importance of using lessons learnt to optimise implementation.
Given the wealth of evidence demonstrating the safety and cost-effectiveness of LDCT screening for lung cancer, the Network hopes that Member States will recognise the need to avoid duplicating existing evidence, instead progressing at pace with implementation to gain an understanding of how to ensure feasibility within their national contexts.
What could we see next for implementation?
These screening recommendations are an important opportunity to move lung cancer up the political agenda and to encourage Member States to engage in conversations about how rapid progress in screening implementation could be achieved.
We would like to see EU Member States use the new recommendations as a catalyst for action, building on lessons learnt from LDCT screening implementation that is already underway, across both the EU and the rest of the world.
There are currently 27 implementation studies taking place across Europe, with three EU Member States (Poland, Croatia and the Czech Republic) having successfully initiated national-level LDCT lung cancer screening programmes. Several other countries around the world have also committed to nation-wide implementation (the UK, US, Canada, Taiwan, Australia and South Korea). Evidence generated from this real-world practice provides important lessons to optimise implementation of the highest quality. It is our hope that targeted lung cancer screening will increase the rates of early detection, reducing the number of lives lost to lung cancer across the EU.
The final recommendations can be read in full here: 2022/0290(NLE) Recommendation on strengthening prevention through early detection: A new EU approach on cancer screening replacing Council Recommendation 2003/878 EC.
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