Health systems must adapt to better prevent breast cancer

By Rebecca Bazeley

15 September 2020


Report reveals room for improvement in breast cancer prevention and calls for action to reduce evidence gaps for risk tools

Breast cancer is the most common cancer to affect women and is a leading globalcause of death in the UK and around the world. In rare cases it can also affect men. Although reductions in mortality have been achieved through earlier detection and improved treatment, the number of women developing breast cancer continues to rise. Better prevention is therefore a priority for policy action, to reduce the burden of disease on both patients and health services.

The good news is that the huge amount of research underway throughout Europe is delivering a wealth of knowledge about the risk factors associated with breast cancer. New avenues for more accurate personalised risk prediction and targeted interventions to prevent disease are opening. Increased personalisation can save more lives whilst also minimising the use of unnecessary or radical interventions where good alternatives are appropriate.

The latest report from the PHG Foundation heralds the prospect of better breast cancer prevention, where new tools for more precise risk assessment and targeted interventions based on risk can tackle the full spectrum of breast cancers, which can vary enormously in nature and severity

However, in researching Personalising breast cancer prevention – bridging the gap between research and policy, our analysis found that the potential of risk assessment tools to improve health and quality of life for women is not being properly realised; ad hoc implementation and lack of formal evaluation are delaying the benefits that the best tools could provide.

Offering a set of policy recommendations to accelerate and improve breast cancer risk assessment and prevention, we strongly advocate the creation of ‘learning health systems’ approaches, whereby the collection and comparison of data are embedded in routine clinical practice and research is conducted taking into consideration the views of different communities including citizens and health care professionals  

As health systems across Europe and beyond explore ways to deliver better prevention of the major diseases affecting populations, this new report funded by the EU as part of the B-CAST breast cancer research consortium sets out the policy actions needed to capitalise on the significant opportunities for prevention emerging from rapid advances in breast cancer research today.

Personalising breast cancer prevention – bridging the gap between research and policy

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