BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission is set to propose boosting regular screenings for cancer and expanding them to additional types of tumours, after check-ups fell dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, EU officials said on Wednesday.
Up to 1 million cancer patients in Europe are estimated to have gone undiagnosed as about 100 million screening tests were not performed in the first phase of the pandemic, EU data show.
With fewer screenings and many diagnosed patients delaying their surgical or chemotherapy treatment in hospital due to the pandemic, risks were growing that cancer would become the first cause of death in Europe in the next decade, EU officials said, ahead of circulatory and respiratory diseases.
To address this risk, the EU executive commission would issue new guidance on cancer screening on Sept. 21, EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides told reporters at a meeting of EU health ministers in Prague.
The current guidance dates back to nearly two decades ago, Kyriakides said.
An EU official said the new guidelines would recommend the expansion of regular screening to lung, prostate and, in some cases, gastric cancer.
Currently, the EU recommends regular monitoring only for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer, for which it set a non-binding target of screening at least 90% of those at risk by 2025.
EU data show that lung tumour is the most common mortality cause among cancer patients, accounting for about a fifth of the 1.3 million deaths attributed to cancer in the EU in 2020, ahead of colorectal, female breast and pancreatic cancer.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common, after breast and colorectal cancer, according to the data.
The official said in the new guidelines no specific target was expected for the additional types of cancer to be screened, and measures would be indicated to reach the 90% goal for the cancers currently recommended for screening.
Screening rates vary among EU countries, and can be as low as 6% of the target population for breast cancer, an EU document said without indicating the lagging nations.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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