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IP/06/481

Brussels, 7 April 2006

Commission publishes new EU Guidelines on Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis

In an effort to improve survival rates from breast cancer across Europe, the Commission has published today the fourth European Guidelines for Quality Assurance of Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis. The Guidelines are a benchmark for best practice and have been developed with input from over 200 professionals from 18 Member States (the former EU-15 plus Cyprus, Hungary and Poland) as well as Norway, Switzerland, Israel, Canada and the United States. New issues tackled in this fourth edition include digital mammography and advice for specialist breast units. European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection Markos Kyprianou said: “Some 32,000 European deaths from breast cancer could be prevented annually if best practices for mammography screening were adopted across the EU. The impact of the previous editions of the guidelines on the quality of screening has been profound. However, Europe needs to do much more in tackling this disease. I would urge authorities and practitioners everywhere to use these guidelines as a reference tool of best practice.”

Improving chances of effective treatment

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among women in Europe - responsible for 26.5% of all new cancers and 17.5% of cancer deaths in women. These figures are rising due to the increasing age of the female population. Mammography screening can detect breast cancer 3-4 years before symptoms would be noticed by the woman, dramatically improving the chances of effective treatment.

Raising standards

The European Guidelines aim to raise quality standards by bringing together at EU level the best examples from regional and national breast cancer screening programmes over the last 20 years. Previous editions of the guidelines have been among the top ten best-selling books of the EU bookshop. Manufacturers of breast screening equipment and responsible authorities have responded to previous editions by raising their standards of mammography equipment and imaging to meet European levels.  

The Guidelines have been developed by the European Breast Cancer Network (EBCN), which was co-financed under the Commission’s “Europe against Cancer” programme”. This programme began in 1987 and was among the first Commission actions on public health. Its last funding cycle ran from 1996 to 2002 with a budget of €90.4 million. Main outcomes of the programme include:

  • The development of a world-class database on cancer incidence, mortality, prevalence and survival;
  • The creation of a European code against cancer: www.cancercode.org. Through Commission and Member States’ partnership in pursuing the public health approach set out in the Code 92,000 cancer deaths were avoided each year in the former EU-15;
  • Health promotion actions on smoking prevention among young people (a predecessor to the HELP campaign);
  • Recommendations on screening; and
  • Guidelines on training standards for healthcare professionals.

More information can be found here:

http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_overview/previous_programme/cancer/cancer_en.htm. From 2003 the Programme was integrated into the Public Health Programme for 2003-2008, which has an annual budget of €59.8m.

An executive summary of the full guideline document is available from today here: http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_projects/2002/cancer/cancer_2002_01_en.htm.Over 4,000 copies of the full document have been published by the "Office for Official Publications of the European Communities" and will be available by mid-April. (Copies may be ordered from http://bookshop.europa.eu; ISBN: 92-79-01258-4; Catalogue number: ND-73-06-954-EN-C).


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