Cancer screening: which tests are recommended?
The World Health Organization recommends regular cancer screening tests. The goal? Treat the disease as soon as possible and increase the chances of a cure.
Cancer is responsible for one in four deaths in Luxembourg. However, the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the greater the chance of treating it successfully. Every year, 3,000 new cases of cancer are detected in the Grand Duchy.
Screening aims to detect a disease before the symptoms appear. The WHO has drawn up a list of cancers for which it recommends regular screening tests Because they are detected early, treatments considerably increase the chances of recovery.
Each country implements its recommendations. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has set up two national screening programmes.
Breast cancer screening
In Luxembourg, breast cancer can affect about one in eight women at some point in their lives. This represents 450 cancers diagnosed each year. Only 15% of these diagnosed breast cancers are detected at an early stage. This early detection offers a chance of recovery close to 98%, which is why it is important to get tested often.
Women resident in Luxembourg aged 50 to 69 receive a letter at home every two years inviting them to go to an approved centre to have a mammogram.
To help diagnosed women and their families, one valuable source of information is the Facebook page of La Chauve Sourit, which also maintains the CHL blog on breast cancer.
It is also worth consulting the guide entitled WIN, created by the Luxembourg artist Jacques Schneider, which lists addresses and contacts useful for the prevention, screening and follow-up of breast cancer in Luxembourg.
This booklet is available from AXA headquarters and at Kritzel Fabrik, Jacques Schneider’s workshop in Luxembourg City.
A wealth of information is available on the website of the Fondation Cancer du Luxembourg which helped write this article.
Colorectal cancer screening
Women and men between 55 and 74 years of age are concerned by this programme. Again, if you are part of the target audience, a screening invitation will be sent to your home address.
Screening begins with a stool blood test. Then, if there is a risk factor or if the person so wishes, he or she can undergo a colonoscopy (also called coloscopy), i.e. a visual examination of the colon by means of a probe, performed under local anaesthesia.
In addition to these national programmes, other types of cancer must be monitored regularly, but this preventive approach is left to the discretion of the patient and his or her treating physician.
Cervical cancer screening
“The habit of consulting a gynaecologist every year is well established among women in Luxembourg. Therefore a smear test, performed every year or even every three years is enough. Because studies show that this type of cancer develops slowly. ” explains Lucienne Thommes, Director of the Fondation Cancer du Luxembourg.
Skin cancer screening
While it is recommended to visit your dermatologist every year for a check-up, the patient themselves are in the best position to screen for the disease. Patients are advised to observe any changes to the skin, to the size, colour or thickening of moles and to consult if in doubt.
In addition to the recommendations issued by the WHO, your family history, lifestyle or anxiety about the disease may prompt you to perform further tests.
If, like 21% of Luxembourg’s population, you are a smoker, we cannot insist too much on the need for regular check-ups with a pulmonologist. During a consultation, the doctor may suggest that you undergo a low scan (a scanner with less radiation) as a precaution.
But in the case of lung cancer, the tests do not allow detection far enough in advance to make a real change to the treatment of the disease.
Prostate cancer screening may also be offered by a treating physician to men over 50 years of age.
The Luxembourg National Health Fund (CNS) reimburses cancer screening tests recommended by the WHO, i. e:
The costs of complementary screening tests that are not reimbursed by the CNS quickly add up. For example, you will have to pay around € 300 for a colonoscopy. To cover these costs, you can take out additional insurance.....
By taking out an AXA supplementary insurance policy prevention and screening services are reimbursed 100%, topping up the statutory health insurance reimbursement. Without a reimbursement from your statutory health insurance, AXA will cover 80% of the costs of your screening tests, up to a maximum of € 400 per year per insured.
Don't forget, if there is any history of cancer in your family, it is important to inform your doctor to benefit from regular monitoring.