11th Pan European Conference Press Release 21 October 2013


EUROPA DONNA – The European Breast Cancer Coalition’s 11th Pan-European Conference brought together more than 250 breast cancer advocates and specialists from 37 countries in Prague, Czech Republic, on 19 and 20 October, where a European Commission high representative assured them that progress is being made toward EU breast cancer service accreditation. In addition to the latest on this key priority for EUROPA DONNA, advocates heard from experts on topics ranging from personalised medicine, primary prevention of breast cancer to survivorship.

In the keynote address, Krzysztof Maruszewski, Director of the European Commission Institute for Health and Consumer Protection, Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra, Italy, ensured advocates that the JRC Breast Cancer Initiative is striving to create a performance-based European quality assurance scheme and accreditation with an expected timeframe of end of 2016. He said that one of the first steps will be updating the current 4th edition of the European Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis, which is expected to be well underway in 2014. Regarding the EU guidelines, Prof. Maruszewski said, “I would like to acknowledge the immense importance and immense quality of the work that has already been done to get us to this point. We would not be here if that work had not been done. It has really been underpinning the proper scientifically-based approach to the issue throughout the years. It is a cornerstone on which we have to and want to build in order to be able to move toward the future and get better results and an even better impact in the future.”

Executive Director of EUROPA DONNA Susan Knox said, “Our Coalition has been advocating for EU accreditation of specialist breast units over the past decade. We are pleased to hear that we are closer to achieving the goal set out in the European Parliament Resolutions on breast cancer which calls for the setting up of specialist breast units that comply with the EU guidelines across the EU by 2016. We are also pleased to have Prof. Maruszewski describe this process to our advocates at our Pan-European conference.”

In the scientific portion of the conference, Guiseppe Curigliano, from the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy, gave an overview of personalised medicine, whereby molecular profiling of tumours allows for targeted treatment. He also described studies examining new formulations and treatment durations for older therapies, and new combinations of existing treatments and new delivery systems that may decrease side effects. In a look at the developments in surgical treatment of breast cancer, Peter Dubsky, from the Department of Surgery of the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, described oncoplastic surgery techniques that combine tumour resection with plastic surgery. He added that there are many cases of node-positive disease in which axillary dissection is no longer considered necessary. Prof. Dubsky emphasised the need for surgeon involvement in multidisciplinary teams and acquired expertise in breast surgery. Later in the conference, Bettina Borisch, Professor of Pathology of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and EUROPA DONNA Past President, gave a lively talk on the role of the pathologist in breast cancer diagnosis.

In a presentation on mammography screening, Miroslava Skovajsová, senior consultant at the breast unit in Prague, described the significant progress made in increasing the early detection rates of breast cancer in the Czech screening programme. She also gave a visual and interactive account of the role of the radiologist in detecting tumours using imaging techniques.

Covering a topic that is key to EUROPA DONNA’s Breast Health Day campaign, Isabelle Romieu, Head of the Section of Nutrition and Metabolism at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption and practising regular physical activity in helping to prevent breast cancer. Based on the available evidence, Dr. Romieu further recommended eating a diet based mostly on fruit, vegetables and vegetable fibre, limiting consumption of energy-dense food, and promoting breast-feeding for the health of the mother and her baby.

Given the increasing number of women living with and beyond breast cancer, Dorothy Goddard of the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative in the United Kingdom discussed survivorship and a “self-management” approach, including appropriate support, information and education, in place of traditional clinic or hospital follow-up.

Advocates were then able to share experiences and strategies in four workshops on advocacy and survivorship, advocacy for young women, advocacy for special populations and advocacy for women with metastatic disease.

The conference ended with an overview of EUROPA DONNA’s successful Breast Health Day campaign, held on 15 October, the Information Day held at the European Parliament, and presentations on the activities in France and Switzerland. ED Fora from Austria, Kyrgyzstan and the UK also gave an overview of their general activities throughout the year.

Elizabeth Bergsten Nordström, President of EUROPA DONNA, said, “The EUROPA DONNA Pan-European Conference is unique in that it is the only conference dedicated primarily to breast cancer advocates and survivors. Every two years one of our member countries is selected to host the conference and we congratulate our Czech Forum for their work and their contribution to the social programme.”

EUROPA DONNA – The European Breast Cancer Coalition – is an independent, non-profit organisation whose members are affiliated groups from countries throughout Europe. EUROPA DONNA works to raise public awareness of breast cancer and to mobilise the support of European women in pressing for improved breast cancer education, appropriate screening, optimal treatment and care and increased funding for research. Member countries currently number 46.