Impact of prostate cancer on European society

Wed, 23 Sep 2015

As part of this year’s European Prostate Cancer Awareness Day (EPAD), key policy makers, scientific experts, European urological associations and representatives of patient groups gathered at the European Parliament in Brussels to discuss the impact of prostate cancer on Europe.

With over 417,000 men annually diagnosed with prostate cancer and 92,000 deaths attributed to the disease, the need to keep prostate cancer in the agenda of decision-makers in the region is crucial to improve healthcare and empower patients. Together with MEP Mr. Philippe De Backer and the European prostate cancer coalition Europa Uomo, the European Association of Urology (EAU) organised the event to raise awareness, understanding and knowledge in managing prostate diseases with prostate cancer topping the agenda.

Although prostate cancer patients can benefit from effective treatment in the early stages of the disease, thanks to advances in medicine and improved screening, the disease greatly impacts on the quality of life (QoL) of many prostate cancer patients. Two issues dominated the lectures and presentations by experts, patients and politicians- the lack of communication regarding QoL issues and the necessity for PSA screening.

A recent study showed that prostate cancer patients find it difficult to talk about pain, incontinence and sexual dysfunction. In fact they worry more about these personal matters than they worry about treatment outcomes. Moreover, men are more reluctant to consult their physician about chronic health issues, which justifies the need for a better European awareness campaign. By creating awareness and educating patients and their families regarding the social consequences of prostate cancer, what is generally seen as a ‘’taboo” topic will be demystified.

Effective communication is essential in the early detection of the disease. “Men should check their body better. At the European level we should inform men about the early signs and risks similar to what has been done in breast cancer initiatives. This will lead to a lower mortality rate, better healthcare services and outcomes with less expenditure,” was the general opinion.

The role of active surveillance was also highlighted. There was a common observation that PSA testing is disorganised within the EU and that primary care have a bigger role in screening for prostate cancer. A prediction tool, which analyses other factors besides PSA, is expected to reduce the potential harms in screening tests. There was also agreement among doctors and patients that the European Commission can play a role in standardising guidelines and regulations for a more integrated management of prostate cancer.

The optimal use of data should also be tackled at a European level. By comparing different outcomes healthcare professionals can properly validate different test results and can improve their treatment strategies, including a more individualised approach. Another benefit of data sharing is building trust with patients. By making results available and more accessible patients will gain better insights regarding the management of their disease. The participants noted that well-informed patients would lead to better results, lower costs and improved care.

“Collaboration among patients, politicians and academia at the European level is crucial to increase the life expectancy of men,” said Philippe De Backer.

The EAU will continue to link up with all stakeholders involved in prostate awareness programmes and will take the lead to achieve better treatment and quality of life for prostate cancer patients in Europe.