Doctors and patient groups fear that women across Europe are not getting timely access to new drugs and devices that could help prolong their survival and well-being. Recent advances in intra-operative radiation therapy and reconstructive surgery to the breast have been made accessible quickly to women in the United States, but even getting on to the relevant clinical trial has proved almost impossible for their European counterparts.
Last year Italian and English studies demonstrated the feasibility of intra-operative radio- therapy. They found that delivering radiation directly to the open breast during surgery appeared to be potentially as effective as six weeks of external radiotherapy. Patients had their breast cancer surgically removed and their radiotherapy treatment all in one stay in hospital. The new treatment also limited radiation exposure to the rest of the patients' skin and other organs, preventing further tissue damage. However, there are only a few centres across Europe that can carry out intra-operative radiotherapy and many patients cannot benefit from these advances. Patients are still facing long waiting times and have to travel long and tiring distances to radiotherapy centres.
The psychological impact of having a breast removed due to cancer has been well documented. However, new advances in reconstructive breast surgery can significantly improve a patient's confidence and well-being; unfortunately these surgical techniques are not available to all European patients. Breast surgeons can now perform a mastectomy that removes the malignant tumour and surrounding breast tissue whilst sparing the nipple. Nipple saving surgery can vastly improve the look and feel
Contact: EBCC-5 Press Office
Federation of European Cancer Societies