European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer tackles early detection of prostate cancer

24 March 2021 Mrs. Sarah Collen, EAU Policy Coordinator

In a public hearing on early detection and screening of cancer on 18 March 2021, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) heard from Prof. Hein van Poppel (BE), EAU Adjunct Secretary General, on the issue of early detection of prostate cancer.

The hearing was designed to take stock of screening programmes currently supported by the European Union (breast, cervix and colorectal cancer) and to address the three additional cancers that are to be considered by the European Commission this year in a review of the 2003 EU Council Recommendations on Cancer Screening (prostate, lung and gastric cancer).

Prof. Van Poppel reminded the participants that prostate cancer is the most common male cancer and a condition that is on the rise with ageing populations across Europe. It is also a killer of too many men, and in Germany it has overtaken colorectal cancer to become the second-highest cancer killer in men behind lung cancer. It is a condition that can cause much suffering for men and their families.

In the past, 1 out of 2 men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer died. Using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing allowed for a lot more cancers to be diagnosed. Prostate cancer mortality had fallen more in comparison with any other cancer, but at the cost of overdiagnosis and overtreatment, which led for PSA testing to be discouraged. As a result of this, while prostate cancer mortality had declined for a long time, it is now on the increase again due to reduced testing.

Prof. Van Poppel said that science has moved on since 2003, and doctors now have a way of reducing the risk of overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Risk calculators are used to avoid doing too many biopsies, along with MRI. On Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, he stressed that information to men on prostate cancer and early detection saves lives, especially for a cancer such as prostate which could be easily detected and cured in its early stages. Nobody should die from prostate cancer anymore, he underlined. Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan has a unique opportunity to add prostate cancer to the list of cancers that benefit from EU guidelines and quality assessment work.

Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (FR), rapporteur for the file in the European Parliament, summarised the event in her concluding remarks, and she agreed with Prof. Van Poppel’s analysis that screening programmes for other types of cancer such as prostate should be included in the EU recommendations. We look forward to the Parliament’s final report including this important issue.

The recording and presentations from the hearing can be found here.

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