MEPs Against Cancer
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Summary of the Joint Meeting of the Intergroup on Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity and the MEPs Against Cancer
CANCER CONTROL FOR OLDER PEOPLE
HOSTED BY LIZ LYNNE MEP
24th JANUARY 2012
On the 24th January, a special MAC meeting was held in conjunction with the Intergroup on Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity to address ageing and cancer and to honour MEP Liz Lynne, co-chair and vice-president of both interest groups, who is retiring this February. The co-chair of the Age Intergroup Chair since her election to the European Parliament in 1999, and the intiator of the MAC group with Alojz Peterle MEP in 2005, Liz highlighted the importance of working on ageing and cancer "As we age, our immune system becomes less effective and cancer becomes more common. Following recent medical advances cancer is now often a chronic, long term but survivable condition in an ageing population.”
As this was the last interest group meeting in the Parliament before she steps down Liz highlighted her other areas of interest and success during her career as an MEP, including her belief that policy in Europe should enable all citizens to be treated equally and with dignity. This has led to sterling work on employment, anti-discrimination and trying to ensure equal access to goods and services for all. In all call for continuation of this work, Liz stated that “for further progress tackling discrimination on all grounds, it is also essential that the Equal Treatment Directive which I have campaigned for so many years is unblocked from the Council of Ministers and put into law." Liz also renewed her call, launched with ECL in the European Parliament in 2011 for cancer and other chronic diseases to be included in an EU definition in all existing and potential EU legislation.
Mr Peterle MEP presents Liz Lynne MEP with comemmorative plaque
Mr. Peterle followed up Liz’s long list of achievements with a vote of thanks, emphasizing her added value to the fight against cancer. Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary General of the Age Platform also joined Mr. Peterle in thanking Liz for her commitment to their work on ageing, specifically for putting the fight against abuse of older people on the European Agenda. There is a lot of interest in older people’s issues in health care at the policy level, but not necessarily amongst the people who fund them. Policy making should be there for the citizens, and create better environments for older people.
Mr. Wojciech Dziworski of DG SANCO outlined the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing which addresses the paradigm shift from the perception of older people as a burden on society to considering older people as assets to be thankful for. The EIP-AHA does not aim to reopen debates about ageing but to try and harness opportunities, and builds upon a number of sectoral policies in the EU such as the health strategy and the 2009 Communication Against Cancer and the European Partnership for Action Against Cancer.
Three areas were mentioned in the EIP-AHA that are relevant to cancer:
Geriatric Cancer Assessments (GCA)
Dr Anja Vleghe introduced a tool developed to assess the needs of older cancer patients with regards to treatment. As cancer incidences rise across Europe especially in older patients, there needs to be a better understanding of their needs for treatment and quality of life. Many patients are still treated with arbitrary criteria. Even the concept of age is subjective, what should be taken into account is how an individual will react to treatment which is dependent on several different factors. Comprehensive Geriatric Assessments are proposed as a tool for achieving a better understanding of the specific needs of older cancer patients. They may also serve to identify co-morbidity, help in the prevention and treatment of malnutrition and enable us to find outstanding issues in a patient’s life that may affect their treatment and recovery.
Quality of Life for Older Cancer Patients
The KLIMOP study into the quality of life issues started six months ago and is looking into what survival means for older cancer patients. Laura Dexc presented preliminary results of the research which has so far found that very often the fear of losing autonomy is greater than the fear of dying for older patients. 23% of their patients started with impairments in daily life, but 6 months after treatment, this number increases. Loneliness is also a big problem and is closely associated with functionality. Depression as well as loneliness are both found to increase in the results analysed so far.
Left to right: Dr Anja Vleghe, Anne-Sophie Parent, Liz Lynne MEP, ALojz Peterle MEP, Laura Dexc, Wojciech Dziworski and Katie Thayer
Hildrun Sundseth of the European Institute of Women's Health described how increases in life span and cancer incidence have a special relevance for women who outlive men by an average of six years in Europe but who are often burdened by a chronic disease. It is crucial that in order to prevent cancer occurring in old age that a life-course approach to healthy ageing is adopted, especially in the EIPAHA. Finally, there were also calls for changes to trials which are currently offered primarily to younger male candidates to the exclusion of women and older people. It is crucial that this trend is changed in order to provide better cancer treatments for all.
Policy recommendations arising from the meeting included:
From the Age Platform:
From the European Institute of Women's Health:
European Innovative Partnership on Healthy and Active Ageing, Wojciech Dziworski
Comprehensive Geriatric Cancer Assessment, Anja Vleghe
Improving Cancer Care for Older People, Hildrun Sundseth