Each year in Europe, more than 250,000 people die from colorectal, breast and cervical cancer. Some of these deaths can be prevented by screening for cancer. Screening for cancer leads to earlier detection of the cancer with a better chance of cure. Most countries in Europe have screening programmes for these three cancers. However, in eastern European countries these programmes are often organised differently. Instead of inviting all men and women to screening, people themselves have to make an appointment. This leads to fewer people screened, especially in groups of people having less knowledge of health and health care. Also, since the programmes are often not organised nationally, it is difficult to have an overview of the results to see whether the quality of the programme is good and how it can be improved.
In this project, EU-TOPIA-EAST, we will first focus on the screening programmes of three eastern European countries: Georgia (breast), Romania (cervix) and Montenegro (colorectal) and in the final stage involve all eastern European countries and the Mediterranean. We will use previously developed methods and models to evaluate the current state of the programme, the data that are collected and the barriers that prevent optimal performance of the programme. This will lead to action plans for the three countries with feasible changes to current screening programmes. Next, we will implement these action plans: e.g. in Georgia, we will among other things increase coverage of the programme by establishing a new screening unit; in Romania, we will develop new IT systems to allow inviting all women to cervical cancer screening; and finally in Montenegro we will establish a new colonoscopy center to increase programme capacity and decrease travel time for participants.
In the final stage of the project, we will invite all people and organisations involved in the screening process (for example the Ministry of Health, health physicians who perform screening, people invited for screening, patient organisations) to discuss plans to continue with the improvements after the project has ended. Also, we will share our experience how to improve cancer screening programmes to other eastern European countries and the Mediterranean in two workshops for people involved in screening from all other countries. In this way, the project will improve the prevention and early diagnosis of cancer in Eastern European and Mediterranean countries. Thus, the project will lead to reduced inequity between EU regions, reduced number of cancer deaths and more life years gained.