Europa Donna





More than 3,000 breast cancer specialists and advocates attended the 8th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-8) in Vienna, Austria from 21-24 March.

Topics such as survivorship and the benefits of lifestyle interventions also took the floor. EUROPA DONNA  in partnership with the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and the European Society of Breast Cancer Specialists (EUSOMA) hosted the conference, where physicians and advocates alike heard the latest findings on best practice in mammography screening, specialist breast unit implementation and accreditation, imaging techniques, surgical and drug therapy, lifestyle measures, and specific populations such younger women, older women and those with metastatic disease.

What is Europa Donna?

EUROPA DONNA (ED) – The European Breast Cancer Coalition, is an independent, non-profit organisation whose members are affiliated groups from countries throughout Europe. ED works to raise public awareness of breast cancer and to mobilise the support of European women in pressing for improved breast cancer education, appropriate screening, optimal treatment and care and increased funding for research.  Member countries currently number 46, from Albania to Uzbekistan.

EUROPA DONNA Past President Bettina Borisch reminded participants of the need for further advocacy for mammography screening and breast unit implementation: “We know that in breast units, team work is essential, but it is not easy. A European specialist breast unit accreditation scheme must be implemented so that patients know where they can go for optimum care.”

Prof. Borisch also mentioned “professional tribalism”, i.e., the reluctance of some professionals to work together. Lesley Fallowfield, of the University of Sussex, emphasised the importance of a well-functioning, communicative multidisciplinary team, for the benefit of the members and their patients.  In Britain we find that David Cameron and Andrew Lansley constantly echo that cancer treatment is better in some European countries, but there are no plans to open wider co-operation across the English Channel.

Dutch Research

Presenting the 20-year results from the Dutch national breast cancer screening programme, which now includes women aged 50-75, Jacques Fracheboud from Erasmus Medical Centre said that the programme has contributed to a decrease in breast cancer mortality, and that its benefits outweigh all the potential negative effects. A study presented later by his colleague Rianne de Gelder estimated that in 2008, adjuvant treatment reduced breast cancer deaths by almost 14%, while biennial screening reduced deaths by almost an additional 16%.


In a first ever session dedicated to “survivorship”, Julia Rowland of the U.S. National Cancer Institute described how advocacy in her country led to the creation of the Office of Cancer Survivorship, of which she is the director. With the growing population, and the fact that due to early detection the vast majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer can expect to live beyond 5 years, research and attention must be focussed on the issues concerning this population. She added that the transition to recovery can be stressful for both the woman and her family, and long-term effects of treatment such as fatigue need to be addressed. ED members Mojca Miklavi and Ingrid Kössler then gave moving accounts of their personal experience with survivorship and advocacy.

There was also promising news for younger women. Hatem Azim of the Jules Bordet Institute presented trial results showing that pregnancy is not only safe after breast cancer, it might have a protective effect.

Lifestyle factors

In a well-attended, early morning ED Teaching Lecture, Isabelle Romieu, Head of the Section of Nutrition and Metabolism at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, covered the lifestyle factors that could help in preventing breast cancer. She said that research is now targeted at identifying the subgroups of breast cancer types that could benefit from certain lifestyle interventions.

She reiterated that minimal alcohol consumption, avoiding obesity, eating a low-fat, high-fibre diet and avoiding sweet drinks could help to reduce breast cancer risk. Many of these are the messages of ED annual Breast Health Day campaign, which was outlined by Susan Knox, ED’s Executive Director. Lifestyle was also the topic of a lively Oxford Debate.

A further study presented by Dutch experts indicated that cognitive behavioural therapy and physical exercise can have beneficial effects on treatment-induced menopausal symptoms. In an additional study presented by Jennifer Ligibel from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, women who were overweight or obese at the time of diagnosis were found to have a higher risk of recurrence and a shorter survival than their leaner counterparts.

Metastatic Breast Cancer

A ED session focussed on advocating for the unaddressed needs of women with metastatic breast cancer, who often feel marginalised in current breast care facilities. A panel discussion followed regarding the metastatic setting content to be included in the next edition of the European Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis.

The next conference

EBCC-9 is to be held 19-21 March 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.  Make a date to go to this, as delegates will be able to hear from a similar group of experts, many of whom have much to offer cancer care and survivorship in Britain.

More information on the conference is available through the European Cancer Organisation (ECCO), and the conference abstracts are available online.

EUROPA DONNA – The European Breast Cancer Coalition
Piazza Amendola, 3
20149 Milan, Italy
Tel: +39 02 3659 2280
Fax: +39 02 3659 2284
Email:     Website:

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