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Gordon McVie

Cancer in Europe Gordon McVie

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 - Cancer in Europe Gordon McVie
Gordon McVie © Pink Ladies
Internationally acclaimed expert and leading figure in cancer research, Gordon McVie has dedicated his entire professional life to fighting against the disease - he even met his wife during a Cancer Research UK campaign.

Born in Scotland, Gordon McVie now lives between Italy, the USA and UK working as a Senior Researcher and Visting Professor. He is also the founding editor of e-Cancer Medical Science journal, an experts cancer publication from the European Institute of Oncology in Milan.

Gordon McVie talks to wewomen.ca about the challenges of cancer treatment in Europe, poor medical management and about why more women are dying of lung cancer and explains how socially deprived circumstances can increase the risk of cancer.

Would you agree that in Europe, cancer is not a death sentence anymore?
GM: Yes absolutely. If the cancer is detected early, and you have an early operation with chemotherapy afterwards, you have the best chance at surviving. Nowadays we even have vaccines against cervical cancer and we're improving our operating techniques for difficult cancers like lung and pancreatic cancer all the time. However, you do have to be in the right place for it.

Does that mean the right hospital or right country?
GM: Both. Take radiotherapy. It is available in most regions. But in some, they use 30 year old machines which can have terrible side effects because they scatter x-rays on large areas of normal tissues surrounding the cancers. The newer machines are much more precise, targeting the cancer. Of course, in many countries modern machines are not always available. 
What is the cancer situation like in Europe?
GM: This has already been well publicized. Scotland and Ireland top most tables for colon and lung cancers, though Eastern European countries where smoking tobacco with a filter was for wimps, a vast number of smoking related cancers are occurring. But more importantly is how well European countries are doing in terms of cure rates after treatment. The UK for example is not a good performer in these league tables, despite billions being put into the NHS. The Netherlands, Italy, France and Germany are all very good and the Swedish in particular have great results. 

What are the main problems?
GM: Poor medical management often leads to a higher death rate and in many countries decisions are made purely on rationing costs, which is a disgrace.

In the European Cancer Journal, you lobby for the liberalization of health care in the EU, especially for cancer treatments. What are the main challenges?
GM: Well, the main political challenge is to harmonize health regulations. Access to the best in healthcare, whether it is robotic surgery, pinpoint modern radiotherapy or clever targeted medicines (homones, antibodies, cytotoxics or vaccines) should be equally accessible for any patient in Europe, regardless of social class, ethnicity or region.
At a meeting within the European Parliament,organized a few weeks ago by ECPC  (European Cancer Patients’ Organization), a lady from Belgium told the Parliament that she needed a cancer drug that was not available in Belgium but was available in France.

She found a doctor in Paris who agreed to treat her. But health insurance in Belgium does not cover treatments abroad – not even within the EU. However, in Denmark for instance, patients make their case in front of a national panel of experts. If they agree, the health services have to pay for the treatment abroad. So at present there are some good practices and some bad ones.


Shila Meyer Behjat
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