In an interview with Lusa, José Dinis said that "there is good news" in terms of the three population-based oncological screenings (breast, colorectal and cervical cancer).
“The great news is that in breast cancer we have already reached the European objectives set for 2025 at the European level of inviting more than 90% of the eligible population”, stressed the program director of the Directorate-General for Health.
The oncologist highlighted the fact that almost 98% of the target population (women between 50 and 69 years old) had already been invited to undergo screening, which he considered “an extraordinary fact”, which was mainly due to the “extraordinary collaboration” of the Liga Portuguesa contra o Cancer, which managed, together with the State, to effectively implement screening in the region of Lisbon and Vale do Tejo, the area that was previously below the target.
At the moment, Portugal is “fully covered”, he said, arguing that it is now important that “adherence, which is still relatively low, accompany the availability that exists for screening”.
Regarding screening for cervical cancer and colorectal cancer, José Dinis said that, although there are still problems, “there is already a clear recovery” to pre-pandemic levels, which are already at the level of 2019.
He acknowledged, however, that the strategy to be followed in these two screenings will have to be changed, and for that, the standards were revised, with the one for cervical cancer awaiting publication and the one for colorectal cancer still being revised.
“We think that these two screenings can also give a considerable boost for us to surpass the mark of 90% of the invited eligible population” by 2025 as foreseen in the European Program to Combat Cancer.
Reduction in mortality
According to data from the Directorate-General for Health, these screenings have shown a reduction in mortality of approximately 30% in breast cancer, 20% in colorectal cancer, and 80% in cervical cancer.
José Dinis said that the screening program will be extended to lung cancer, with the target population being heavy smokers, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer, in which Portugal is “unfortunately” the “champion of Europe”.
"It is a screening [stomach cancer] that the European Commission strongly recommends to countries with a high incidence and we are at the forefront", he underlined.
The director of the program defended that the screenings had to reach “deep Portugal”.
The “great challenge” is that the screenings reach “everyone”, he said, defending a process similar to what happened with the call made to the population by SMS to take the vaccine against covid-19.