Written question to the European Commission

Cervical cancer is one of the four most frequent malignant tumours affecting women worldwide. It is caused by an infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease.

Every year more than 33 000 new cervical cancer cases are diagnosed in EU and/or EEA countries, causing more than 13 000 deaths.

An update of the EU cervical cancer screening guidelines has only been scheduled for 2025, but the current backlog requires immediate solutions. The mRNA test is already available, widely used for primary HPV screening and represents an opportunity to save lives from cervical cancer in an efficient manner, while supporting the fight against other infections such as COVID-19.

1. What strategy will the Commission pursue in terms of granting and supporting immediate public access to innovative cervical cancer early detection technologies which are already successfully in use, but are not available in all Member States because of their exclusion from the most recent guidelines of 2015?

2. In its guidance for the Member States through different initiatives, will the Commission consider making mRNA available to all Member States for their HPV screening programmes?

Answer given by Commissioner Kyriakides on behalf of the European Commission

The Commission recognises the important impact of cervical cancer and other cancers caused by human papilloma viruses across the EU.

According to the second Report on the implementation of the Council Recommendation on cancer screening, 22 EU countries have introduced in their National Cancer Control Plans population-based screening programmes for cervical cancer; however, a significant number of these programmes have not been fully rolled out or implemented, and inequalities continue within and between Member States.

The coverage of the target population for cervical cancer ranges from about 25% to 80%, and the average among EU countries of age-standardised five-year net survival has been calculated at 63%, with a rage from 70% to 54%.

The Commission’s Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, to be presented early 2021, will aim to contribute to reduce such disparities and support Member States to implement high quality population based cancer screening, including for cervical cancer.

Although the choice how to organise, manage and implement cancer screening is competence of Member States, the sharing of EU best practice, guidelines and quality assurance schemes will help upgrading of screening programmes and give concrete indications about the potential introduction of new tests like the mRNA test.

In addition, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is expected to launch work to consider additional evidence to inform an update of the Council Recommendation on cancer screening, which currently indicates the pap smear screening for cervical cancer precursors starting not before the age of 20 and not later than the age of 30 as a screening test fulfilling its requirements.

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