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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month - European Parliament Event 03/03/2017

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. To sensitize the public about the third most common type of cancer and the second most common cause of death in Europe, on 1st March 2017 EuropaColon organized the conference ‘Colorectal Cancer: Evolutions, Obligations and Implications’ at the European Parliament.

Kindly hosted by Dr Alfred Sant MEP (S&D, Malta), and benefitting from the presence of European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, the event focused on the need to have a Europe-wide colorectal cancer (CRC) screening programme, to detect this disease as early as possible and save lives. ESSO President Professor Santiago González-Moreno intervened as a speaker in this high-level forum, together with ECCO President Professor Peter Naredi as well as Mrs Jolanta Gore Booth, founder of EuropaColon.

Especially in the case of colorectal cancers, a multidisciplinary approach to gastrointestinal malignancies is crucial. Prof. González-Moreno therefore explained that a research-driven multidisciplinary care for the sake of patients is at the core of what ESSO does and advocates. He then clarified one simple but essential concept: in the complex area of cancer management, it is not only a matter of how to perform a surgical operation, but mostly whether and when to do it, and under which circumstances. This is why the terminology “cancer surgery” has evolved into “surgical oncology”, a term which highlights the healthcare professional’s knowledge of tumour biology and other oncology treatments, as well as his/her belonging to a multidisciplinary team.

Surgery is certainly the only treatment modality for solid tumours which has a curative potential by itself but, at the same time, inadequate cancer surgery can hinder the chances for a potentially curable patient to be rendered long-term disease-free. Doing surgery “right” is essential, and Prof. González-Moreno showed a video – prepared by ESSO, SSO (US Society) and BSSO-SBCO (Brazilian Society) – supporting the need for adequate surgery , and for this  to be only performed by fully trained surgical specialists in cancer care.

CRC Event European Parliament 2

The President of ESSO then illustrated the latest trends in CRC surgery, which are moving from the necessity of mutilating anatomic structures, such as the anal sphincter, to their preservation. Thanks to a minimally invasive approach, which includes techniques such as laparoscopic and robotic surgery, as well as transanal excision, and by keeping the same level of effectiveness of the open surgery approach, minimally invasive surgery already ensures eligible patients a shorter hospital stay, a quicker return to normal activities, and less pain following surgery. Moreover, nowadays non-surgical management techniques are becoming popular, with specialists such as interventional radiologists that treat some types of metastatic colorectal cancers with ablative techniques without recurring to surgery.

Affordable and good quality surgical cancer care should be made available to all, and these trends will become the next standards of care also for the treatment of CRC. However, the higher sophistication and cost of these innovative techniques will take more time and a steeper learning curve for surgical oncologists and, thus, more investments in equipment, as well as in their training and education will be needed.

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