Belfast Telegraph

QUB expert takes battle with cancer Euro-wide

BY VICTORIA O'HARA

The man heralded for significantly boosting cancer survival rates in Northern Ireland is now trying to save lives across Europe.

World-renowned cancer specialist Professor Patrick Johnston of Queen's University Belfast is championing a new Bill of Rights to help transform the standard of care for millions of citizens in dozens of countries.

Launched at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today –World Cancer Day – the bill aims to set a standard that all European countries can aspire to, ensuring that all citizens are entitled to the best cancer care regardless of where in Europe they live.

Recent studies have shown eastern European countries including Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia have the lowest survival rates in Europe.

Nordic countries with the exception of Denmark, central European countries such as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and Holland, and some countries in southern Europe have the best survival rates.

The bill is being launched after two years of work by the European Cancer Concord which is co-chaired by Prof Johnston, the Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen's University and the man whose work has seen our cancer survival rates turned around.

Prof Johnston (55) said: "We have to act now to reduce the number of people dying as a result of cancer.

"It is critical that today, on World Cancer Day, we insist that it is the right of every European citizen to receive an optimal level of care."

The Bill of Rights, which has also been published today in leading journals The Lancet Oncology and The Oncologist, are underpinned by three key principles:

  • The right of every European citizen to receive accurate information and be involved in their care.
  • The right of every European citizen to access specialised cancer care underpinned by research and innovation.
  • The right of every European citizen to cost-effective health systems.

Professor Mark Lawler, also from Queen's and who has worked alongside Prof Johnston on the initiative, said: "This Bill of Rights has the potential to make real changes to the lives of many people living with cancer."

FACTFILE

Northern Ireland has some of the highest breast cancer and melanoma survival rates in the UK and Ireland.

QUB's Northern Ireland Cancer Registry found that survival rates for breast cancer in NI were 81.9%. The overall survival rate for breast cancer across Europe is 82.4%.

Skin melanoma survival rates here were 90.7%, 7% higher than the EU average.

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