Cancer is an ever-growing concern around the world, Malta being no exception. There are almost 2,000 new cases of cancer a year and about 900 annual deaths in Malta. This means that, on average, five people in Malta are diagnosed with a form of cancer every day, and the statistics tell us that this number is bound to increase.
One cannot single out a particular reason for this increase in cancer incidences. On one hand, there are lifestyle factors such as exposure to toxins and smoking, while on the other hand, the fact that we are now expected to live longer increases the span of time in which cancer can develop.
The good news is that the survival rate of cancer sufferers is higher than it has ever been, with some cancers having a higher survival rate than others. Early detection, prevention and awareness are helping to achieve these positive results. Yet, without any doubt, the major contributor to this success is the continuous investment in cancer research across the globe. All these factors fill us with hope that it is not impossible to overcome this struggle.
As a member of the European Parliament, I also want to work on issues that affect people in their daily lives. I have thus made it a point to also work on cancer.
Several people have approached me to provide feedback on the subject. This has solidified my resolve to engage and support the local stakeholders in this endeavour.
I have joined MEPs Against Cancer, a cross-party group of MEPs dedicated to working on cancer policy with the belief that European cooperation adds value to member state actions. The European People’s Party (EPP) Group – the largest political group in the European Parliament, of which I am a member – has also established cancer as one of its priority discussion items and I am participating in policy discussions on the matter.
Cancer is another challenge that we need to approach collectively
Over the past weeks I have also had several encounters with the aim of bridging the gap between local and EU key players in the fight against cancer.
I had the opportunity to visit various laboratories at the University of Malta and met dedicated scientists and researchers. I was indeed impressed by the level of research being conducted on cancer and the significant results achieved thanks to local and European funds and European cooperation in research.
I was told, however, that a major challenge being faced is funding limitations.
At the EPP Group we are aiming to double EU spending on cancer research by the year 2024, giving the utmost priority to the fight against cancer, especially when it comes to rare cancers in children. Here, more cooperation at the EU level is necessary to pool research efforts, results and knowledge.
In parallel with the research initiatives, a large number of Maltese people have committed to lending a hand in this fight. During several meetings held with local NGOs such as Europa Donna, Alive Charity Foundation, the Action for Breast Cancer Foundation and the Malta Hospice movement, I committed to supporting their actions in the quest to raise awareness and funds, achieve more effective and sustainable cancer treatment and to offer care and support for those affected.
All these volunteers deserve our admiration. They have chosen to dedicate their energy and their time towards the fight against cancer, something which motivates me to continue being their voice in the European Parliament.
I am working to channel the views and knowledge of these NGOs with European policymakers through their involvement in policy discussions at the European Union level. I am also facilitating collaboration between Maltese NGOs and their European counterparts through the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL) – a non-profit, pan-European umbrella organisation of national and regional cancer societies.
Through the years, humankind has been able to overcome devastating diseases. Cancer is another challenge that we need to approach collectively.
By combining the efforts of governments, NGOs, EU institutions and the scientific community, we can make the fight against cancer a stronger one.
Francis Zammit Dimech is a nationalist MEP.
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