Interventions to Reduce Cancer Screening Inequities

February 1, 2023

A group of patients and patient advocacy organisations published a promising multistep strategy to reduce cancer screening inequalities In International Journal for Equity in Health[1]. We are glad to have Zorana Maravic among the authors on behalf of DiCE.

While progress is being made in addressing screening inequalities, more work is still needed. The current “one-size-fits-all” approach does not adequately solve the problem of unequal access to screening programmes. In this publication, the authors, patients, advocacy groups, and research experts in different oncological areas gave us new perspectives and opinions to reduce cancer screening inequalities.

Screening programmes are a crucial strategy for the early detection of colorectal cervical, prostate, and breast cancers, and others. They allow on-time access to treatment and care, which can positively impact patients’ survival and better clinical outcomes. Data shows that detection of colorectal cancer at stage 1 is associated with 90% five-year overall survival. Moreover, the difference in cost between the early and late stages is probably tenfold, between 4.000 and 40.000 €[2].

Several factors, including sex, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and the health system organisation, can impact the access and acceptability of screening programmes. Iniquities in screening participation can also be associated with cultural and personal beliefs, past and current life experiences, practical and logistical factors, and potential concerns for the future. Exploring how screening can be more effective at reaching those in greatest need is essential. Equal access to health care does not guarantee equal participation in screening programmes.

In a joint effort to promote equitable access to screening services, the authors prepared talking points and answered questions to guide discussions between each other. Collectively, they have concluded that the best practice to overcome all screening obstacles includes the following steps:

  1. Provide personally tailored approaches to bypass barriers to screening.
  2. Use digital tools and social media to reach the unreachable.
  3. Recognise the value of peer support in group-based interventions.
  4. Empower individuals rather than force or push them into screening programmes or interventions.
  5. Build patient advocacy programmes in the European Union with a more powerful impact.
  6. Create multi-stakeholder collaborations that include healthcare professionals, policymakers, researchers, patients, and industry experts.

We must continue to explore how screening can be more effective at reaching those in greatest need. To accomplish this essential goal, joint efforts must be made between patients and patient advocacy groups.

[1] Interventions to reduce cancer screening inequities: the perspective and role of patients, advocacy groups, and empowerment organizations – International Journal for Equity in Health. DOI: 10.1186/s12939-023-01841-6

[2] White Paper – Colorectal Screening in Europe. Digestive Cancers Europe, 2019.

Haidar Akl

In order to facilitate the use of our website, we use cookies.

Please confirm if you accept our tracking cookies. When declining the cookies, you can continue visiting the website without sending data to third party services. Read our complete cookie statement here.