Support needed for elderly breast cancer patients and for independent academic research

Safeguarding academic research, improving individual risk assessment, greater attention to elderly cancer breast cancer patients, and a rethink on care after breast cancer were the four areas highlighted by participants at the 4th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-4) in Hamburg today (20 March 2004). Delegates used an electronic voting system to select these issues for special attention in the next two years.

Clinicians, scientists and patients agreed the Hamburg Statement at the end of a five-day conference at which they heard about the latest developments in breast cancer, the most frequent cause of cancer death among European women.

Participants underlined the importance of independent academic research and called for the allocation of money from the EU central budget for example the Tobacco Fund - to translational research, and for the encouragement of private donations to breast cancer research by increasing tax deductibility levels in Member States.

Increasingly, women wish to know about their individual risk of getting breast cancer and the conference called for risk-reducing interventions to be made available to patients without cost. For women with a serious family history of breast cancer, delegates wished full genetic counselling and testing to be made available to the patient free of charge.

The needs of elderly breast cancer patients are often neglected, despite the demographic changes which mean that this is a growing problem. The conference called for there to be no upper age limit in the design of standard treatment plans, and for patient participation in clinical trials to be decided according to performance status and not by age.

Finally, delegates said that after-care for breast cancer patients should not be limited to detecting relapse but should include psychological support and the management of treatment side effects. Care after breast cancer should be planned by a multidisciplinary clinic

Contact: Stuart Bell
Federation of European Cancer Societies

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