The European Cancer Patient's Bill of Rights is being launched today aimed at improving care across the continent.

The launch, on World Cancer Day, is taking place at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and is the result of two years' work by the European Cancer Concord (ECC), which involves 17 European countries and represents over 1,000 national organisations. It is co-chaired by Queen’s University Belfast's Patrick Johnston who noted that in Northern Ireland "we have seen the difference that a comprehensive cancer care and research programme can have on patient outcomes".

He added that previously, "Northern Ireland was sitting at the bottom of the UK table for cancer survival rates and thanks to pioneering work at Queen's, in association with the health service, we're now close to the top". Prof Johnston went on to say that "this bill of rights aims to set a standard that all European countries can aspire to, ensuring that all citizens are entitled to the optimum cancer care regardless of where in Europe they live".

The bill of rights is underpinned by three key principles and speaks of the right of every European citizen "to receive accurate information and be involved in their own care", to have access to specialised cancer care "underpinned by research and innovation" and "cost-effective health systems that ensure optimum cancer outcomes".

Mark Lawler, also of Queen’s and the ECC project lead on the bill of rights initiative, notes that "three people succumb to this deadly disease every minute throughout Europe. With an ageing population, that number will increase to one person dying every ten seconds from cancer in just 25 years".

Recent studies have shown that eastern European countries including Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia have the worst cancer care in Europe. Nordic countries (with the exception of Denmark) central European countries such as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Netherlands, and some countries in southern Europe have the best survival rates for most cancers.

Battle won't be won with treatment alone: WHO

Meantime, the World Health Organisation has published its 'World Cancer report 2014' which reveals how the burden of the disease "is growing at an alarming pace" and calls for "urgent implementation of efficient prevention strategies to curb the disease". In 2012, the global burden of cancer rose to an estimated 14 million new cases per year, a figure expected to rise to 22 million annually within the next two decades.

Christopher Wild, director of the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), said that “despite exciting advances, this report shows that we cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem". He added that "more commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments".

The report notes that more than 60% of cases occur in Africa, Asia and Central and South America, which account for about 70% of the world’s cancer deaths, a situation made worse by the lack of early detection and access to treatment. However, spiralling costs "are damaging the economies of even the richest countries and are way beyond the reach of developing countries, as well as placing impossible strains on health-care systems".

The IARC analysis notes that in 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer was estimated at $1.16 trillion, "yet about half of all cancers could be avoided if current knowledge was adequately implemented".