By Philip Poortmans, ECCO President (2018-2019)
Success can bring new challenges. Substantial progress has been made in improving survival for cancer patients across many (though not all) tumour areas. Earlier diagnosis and improved treatment approaches mean there are, according to GLOBOCAN figures, now more than 30 million cancer survivors worldwide. But those cancer survivors face new challenges in their daily lives which must be given attention. Not least of these relates to financial discrimination when seeking to access loans, mortgages, insurance and other financial services.
Driven by Professor Françoise Meunier, the recent ECCO 2018 European Cancer Summit devoted its final day to considering how to address this particular injustice. Hearing from representatives of the youth cancer community, self-employed cancer survivors and legal and academic experts, the scale and human impact of the financial discrimination problem for cancer survivors was made clear. However, more than this, the potential legal remedies that are immediately available to us were tantalisingly described.
In 2015 the French National Assembly instituted a new “right to be forgotten” for cancer survivors. This means cancer survivors in France no longer have to tell insurers or loan companies they have had disease when seeking access to financial services. This law benefits all former patients who have been cancer-free for 10 years, regardless of the type of cancer they suffered. Meanwhile, anyone who had cancer under the age of 18 does not need to inform insurers or loan agencies five years after their treatment ends.
Delegates at the ECCO 2018 European Cancer Summit formed a united view that this inspirational action by France should be replicated across Europe. The Summit passed, by large majority, a resolution stating:
“By 2025, in respect to accessing financial services, the right of cancer survivors not to declare their cancer 10 years after the end of the active treatment and 5 years if they had cancer under 18, should be codified across European countries.”
Momentum to see concrete lobbying action to bring the resolution into reality has been immediate. Youth Cancer Europe recently published in the European Parliament a call to action on combatting financial discrimination against cancer survivors quoting the resolution. Furthermore, a new implementation working group, chaired by Professor Françoise Meunier, has now been constructed convening representatives from a range of key advocacy societies to oversee advocacy activities.
I am delighted by these developments. It is exactly the kind of convergence of energy and effort required to see the shadow of cancer banished for all survivors. Quality of life considerations for patients do not finish at the end of treatment. As a cancer community our compassion and action for survivor needs must go further.
Article published in Cancer World Magazine Winter 2018/2019 edition