Barcelona, 24-27 March 2010

More than 5,000 breast cancer specialists and advocates from 96 countries attended the 7th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC7) in Barcelona, Spain from 24-27 March. EUROPA DONNA – The European Breast Cancer Coalition, 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, imaging techniques, surgical and drug therapy, lifestyle and chemoprevention measures, and treating specific populations such as pregnant or older women.

In the opening session, EUROPA DONNA President Ellen Verschuur and Vice-President Christine Murphy-Whyte jointly presented the patient’s view of the need for specialist breast units. Ms. Verschuur urged those present to back the European Parliament Written Declaration on the Fight Against Breast Cancer in the EU, adopted on 25 March, by ensuring that specialist breast units are implemented across Europe. Among its demands, the Declaration calls on the Commission to develop a certification protocol for specialist breast units in accordance with EU Guidelines by 2011 and to provide adequate financing for this.

In addition to EUROPA DONNA teaching lectures on the implementation of the European Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis, including a contribution from Professor Niall O’Higgins on the Irish experience, another teaching lecture was dedicated to prevention through healthy lifestyles. EUROPA DONNA Executive Director Susan Knox said the Breast Health Day campaign held on 15 October has been developed in response to important epidemiological studies concerning prevention. Dr. Carlo La Vecchia, Head of Epidemiology at the Mario Negri Institute, explained that 10% or more of breast cancers could be avoided by widespread adoption of regular physical activity and even more by avoiding obesity and overweight. Limiting both alcohol consumption and the long-term use of hormone replacement therapy both reduce breast cancer risk significantly. The EUROPA DONNA Breast Health Day targets younger women and this year will be extended to NGOs across the globe.

Another highly attended session covered therapy options for women diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy. The session Chair, Dr. Sibylle Loibl from the German Breast Group, noted that care should be as close as possible to standard recommendations and be provided by a multidisciplinary team.

The same was said in a session run by the Metastatic Breast Cancer Task Force, in which EUROPA DONNA Past President Stella Kyriakides represented patients’ interests. The need for maintaining quality of life in women with metastatic disease while attempting to extend survival was emphasised. Dr. David Cameron from St. James’s University Hospital said that doctors need to understand what their patients want and how to communicate uncertainties while also providing reassurance. Dr. Lesley Fallowfield, of the University of Sussex, cited data showing that a majority of women give equal value to length of life and quality of life. The Metastatic Breast Cancer Task Force aims to create guidelines for this patient group, for which earlier recommendations were published following a session at EBCC-6 (J Natl Cancer Inst 2009;101(17):1174-81).

EUROPA DONNA wrap-up sessions, in which experts summarised earlier scientific sessions, were widely attended by advocates and scientists.

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

The European Breast Cancer Conference, held every two years, brings together the voices of doctors, researchers, nurses and advocates, and is the only conference of its kind to represent patient advocacy and major breast cancer institutions in one arena. The next conference, EBCC-8, is to be held 21-24 March, 2012, in Vienna, Austria.