Europees Partnerschap over kankerbestrijding

  • 29/09/2009
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(Tekst beschikbaar alleen in het Engels)

President Barroso,
Commissioner Vassiliou,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

CANCER: a word that is heard every day and which fills us with dread. Almost everyone here in this room has been touched by cancer in some way - through a relative - a friend - a neighbour?We are all involved.
It is an honour for me to be present here today to share some thoughts with you. I thank the Commission of the European Union for its kind invitation.

I have no intention of drawing too gloomy a picture of this disease. My message today is that although cancer is one of the most difficult diseases to fight, we should not forget that it can very often be beaten. First of all, people nowadays are far more aware of the importance of following a healthy lifestyle than they were twenty years ago. Furthermore, long-term sustainable action on cancer in different fields - prevention - screening - research and medicine?. continues to develop. And this is where the European Partnership with its action plan against cancer that we launch this morning comes in. By providing a framework for identifying and sharing information, capacity and expertise in cancer prevention and control, and by engaging relevant stakeholders across the European Union we are creating a more effective, coordinated approach between the member states of the EU. Better results can be achieved by joining forces together in the fight against cancer.

With some pride I can tell you that my country has already developed a national cancer plan 2008-2010 with 32 concrete actions to tackle cancer and to improve the situation of the chronically ill. These measures cover a variety of issues such as prevention and screening, care, treatment and patient support as well as research, innovative technology and evaluation. A first positive evaluation has shown that most measures have been put or will be put into place soon. I would like to mention too that a Cancer Centre has been set up, with a multidisciplinary staff, whose aim is to bring together all concerned stakeholders in Belgium, and ensure better coordination between them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Some cancers are more vigorous than others, and therefore more difficult to fight. But there is one thing they have in common: prevention. This is the key to saving many lives.
I want to highlight particularly the importance of effective prevention. During my many conversations with breast cancer patients, I learned that regular screening and early detection had saved many lives and given hope for the future. Breast cancer is a disease that can be cured today - as is cervical cancer if detected early ? and thanks to the new vaccine which is now available.
But for me, raising awareness is often the best vaccine. It is broader - and addresses a variety of issues such as lifestyles and occupational and environmental causes. I note with pleasure that the European Partnership puts much emphasis on this aspect of prevention. And still more can be done within each EU member state.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I also attach great importance to intensified and coordinated cancer research in all its aspects. Last March I visited a paediatric oncology Department. I was deeply moved by this visit. I met very sick children, but they gave me a lesson on how to be brave: never to give up hope despite the burden of illness which is weighing heavily on their young shoulders. I met parents taking care of their children with so much love and unconditional support ? putting their own needs aside. I met devoted medical staff committed to improving the lives of those sick children. And all of them expressed the hope for better and more intensified health research including more clinical research. I learned that 80 percent of the sick children can be helped with existing treatments. But we also have to reach out to the remaining 20 percent. The clinical research results are essential for the introduction of new treatments, to improve the application of existing treatments and to reduce side effects to a minimum. It is clear that there is a need for further investment in cancer research programmes, and the best way to do this is in a coordinated manner.
Again, I note with pleasure that the European Partnership Plan insists on this specific aspect of cancer research.

A third important issue, in addition to prevention and research, is the need for greater investment in qualitative improvements in cancer services such as psycho-oncology during treatment.
In my contact with patients, I often notice that despite the attention they are given by the medical experts or family and friends, they quite often feel alone in their fight against cancer. The psychological consequences should therefore not be ignored: emotional distress even depression ? tiredness ? anxiety ? fear - all of which can influence the healing process ? and which sometimes go unnoticed.
For this reason I am in favour of strengthening and generalising initiatives aimed at training nurses and personnel specialised in oncology ?for adults as well as for children- to assist patients and their families by giving the appropriate psychological support. Furthermore, those initiatives should also support professionals who often face very difficult situations.
Finally, a relationship of trust between the patient and his or her doctor must exist, and is of the utmost importance during the healing process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This European Partnership against Cancer aims to bring together European stakeholders with a common aim and commitment to reduce cancer. Today marks the start. Your presence here symbolizes our common aspiration.
My sincere hope is that together we will succeed in reducing ?and - let us be positive here ? eradicating one day- this terrible disease.

Each of you has a responsibility in this field and together we can make progress.
I congratulate again the EU Commission for its initiative.

And I thank you.