It’s time to take action - message from ESSO policy event


from left: Matthias Schuppe, Deputy Head of Unit, Unit B.1: Cancer, Health in all policies, Directorates B, C and D, Directorate General for Health and Food Safety, European Commission; Tanja Spanic, Europa Donna President; Hendrick van Poppel, Policy Office Chairman, European Association of Urology (EAU); Isabel Rubio, ESSO President; Cristian Busoi, MEP, Chair of the Challenge Cancer Intergroup; Francesco De Lorenzo, President of European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC); Pompiliu Piso, ESSO Board member, Vice-President German Society for General and Visceral Surgery; Domenico D’Ugo, ESSO Past-President; Alina Comanescu, Board member of Digestive Cancers Europe

The ESSO policy event “Time for Change: Addressing the value of surgical oncology in the treatment and care of cancer” was held on Wednesday, 26 October at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

Hosted by Cristian Busoi, MEP, Chair of the Challenge Cancer Intergroup, key stakeholders from ESSO, patients' organisatons and other partner societies, as well as high-level representatives of EU institutions formed a constructive round-table discussion over the necessity of recognizing surgical oncology as a specialty across Europe, as well as concrete steps to be taken to breakdown the obstacles in policy making.

The pivotal role surgical oncology plays in cancer treatment is undeniable. Surgical resection is the main therapy that can cure solid cancer. It is well acknowledged that the best chance of cure for any solid tumour is early diagnosis and high-quality surgical removal. In addition, surgery is the most cost-effective treatment for the majority of non-metastasised solid tumours.

Around 80% of cancer patients will require surgical intervention during the course of their disease. It is estimated that by 2030, annually 45 million surgical procedures will be needed worldwide. However, only less than 25% of patients with cancer worldwide today actually get safe, affordable, or timely surgery. Cancers amenable to surgery are estimated to cause 2.7 million years of life lost to disability worldwide. Yet, surgical oncology is not recognised as a specialty in the majority of member states in Europe.

Mr. Busoi highlighted in his welcome remark that cancer surgery is such a complex process that should be required to be performed by specialists with necessary knowledge, skills, and clinical experience. It is of crucial importance that surgical oncology is recognised as a specialty at both EU and national levels, otherwise, the disparity of cancer treatment will continue in Europe.

Surgeries delivered by specialised surgical oncologists not only save lives, but also improve the quality of life for cancer patients, stressed Prof. Isabel Rubio, ESSO President, “We need to certify surgeons to be surgical oncologists and it’s in ESSO’s core mission to provide high-standard education, but who is training them if there is no recognition of surgical oncology in most European countries?”

For cancer patients in Europe to benefit from optimal cancer surgery, three priorities have been defined during the ESSO policy event:

  • Recognising Surgical Oncology as a specialist discipline across Europe

  • Harmonising education and training standards in Surgical Oncology across Europe

  • Harmonising certification and accreditation systems for Surgical Oncologists across Europe

It is agreed that this should be a two-way effort. National representatives, patients' organisations, and stakeholders from surgical oncology societies should work together to constitute a unified and strong advocating message. But at the same time, the EU institutions are expected to provide legislative initiatives. Alberto Costa, Special Adviser to the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety on cancer policy, confirmed the commission’s commitment to see the improvement of specialization and certification for a quality surgery.

It is time to unleash the potential of surgical oncology through concrete actions. An open letter Time for action: Maximizing the benefits of surgical oncology for cancer patients in Europe was released. This is a call to action at the EU level on behalf of the surgical oncology community and patients’ organisations. The letter is now under circulation among MEPs for endorsement before being sent to Ms. Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety and Ms. Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. .

Click here to view the recording of the presentations

ESSO advocacy documents:


ESSO Industry Partners