A Parliamentary Assembly Committee of the Council of Europe (PACE) has adopted a draft report on breast cancer in Europe, prepared by Cypriot MP and Rapporteur Stella Kyriakides, chairman of the local Europa Donna awareness charity.
Dealing with breast cancer constitutes a political priority for Cyprus, said Health Minister Philippos Patsalis addressing the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.
Cancer registry data show that in Cyprus there are about 456 new breast cancer cases per year in women and 6 in men, he added.
Patsalis referred to the policy followed by the Ministry which since 2003 has formulated a national strategic plan on breast cancer and also initially started a pilot screening programme in Nicosia in cooperation with Europa Donna Cyprus, which later expanded to cover the entire island.
At the same time, he said, the basis for the establishment of a breast cancer centre in Nicosia General Hospital has been put in place. The hospital now houses a team of surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, histopathologists and plastic surgeons.
Both the Bank of Cyprus Oncology Centre and the Oncology Centre of Nicosia General Hospital have at their disposal the most modern chemotherapy units, Patsalis said.
He assured that despite the economic difficulties in Cyprus, European treatment protocols are strictly followed.
He referred in particular to the role of NGOs in providing palliative care, noting that the cooperation between state and NGOs in such issues in Cyprus was considered to be a best practice example in the context of the European Alliance Against Cancer.
Almost 30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are under the age of 50 Stella Kyriakides said, presenting her report. The disease, she stressed, affects hundreds of thousands of women in Europe.
Survival rates are steadily increasing in recent years, Kyriakides said noting that this is an optimistic sign. However, she pointed out that there is an increasing number of new cases which is mainly due to changes in lifestyle.
Today, she said, there is a very clear connection between hormonal replacement therapy and the risk of developing breast cancer. At the same time she added that her report points out that as evidence stands today mammography screening is the best form for early detection of breast cancer and that it improves the chances of survival of patients.
The Cypriot MP also spoke of breast specialist centres, noting that treatment in such facilities raises the chance of survival and improves their quality of life.
Kyriakides pointed out that it is also very important for women to have access to correct, evidence-based information. Referring to the advocacy on breast cancer awareness and the pink campaigns, she pointed out that pink is not just a colour but rather has to do with the attitude that momentum for change can be created.
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