French cancer patients hit by scanner shortage

France is making progress in its battle to cut cancer rates, but a worrying shortage of MRI scanning machines in the country means patients are left waiting over a month for "urgent" scans, a new report revealed this week.

French cancer patients hit by scanner shortage
France has a shortage of MRI scanners, meaning cancer patients are waiting too long. Photo: JGmarcelino/flickr

According to a new health survey published on Thursday the French healthcare system, which is held in high regard throughout the world, has 10.1 MRI scanners per million inhabitants.

That compares poorly with other countries in Western Europe where on average they have about double the number of scanners per capita. Germany and Denmark are leading the way, with about 30 machines per million residents.

The shortfall in France means French cancer patients are having to wait for vital scans, even when their cases are deemed urgent. The average waiting time is 30 days, despite the fact that a 2010 government initiative called "Plan Cancer" aimed to bring that wait down to only two weeks. 

The French Health Ministry presented its review on Thursday and lauded the progress that had been made in the struggle against cancer. Some 85 percent of recommendations made in the 2009-2013 "Plan Cancer" are being actively addressed and around 60 percent of the recommendations made in the report are already in place or will be by the end of 2013. 

Yet the MRI scan shortage was a real cause for concern, as was France's inability to tackle the longstanding issue of tobacco consumption that was leading to an elevated number of lung cancer cases compared to the rest of Europe.

One in four cancer deaths in the country are related to smoking, which affects the unemployed and women disproportionately and thus "contributes to inequalities", the report found.

Of those diagnosed with the disease around 12 percent of women and 13 percent of men suffered from lung cancer.

When it came to cancer in the lungs Hungary was the country with the most reported cases among men while Sweden had the lowest number, according to figures from the European Cancer Observatory.

With 42.2 cases of lung cancer per 100,000 inhabitants, France finds itself at the top of the European chart alongside the Benelux nations, Poland, Hungary, Serbia and Croatia, among others. Ireland and Portugal had among the lowest numbers.

In France the most prevalent cancer among women is breast cancer and among men it is prostate cancer. 

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What are the rules on holiday health cover for pensioners in France?

If you're a pensioner living in France and planning a holiday, then the rules around healthcare can get pretty complicated. Here's what you need to know.

What are the rules on holiday health cover for pensioners in France?
Illustration photo: AFP

Having access to France's lauded healthcare system is seen as a positive, even an incentive, to move here once you're retired. 

But in order to make the most of it, you need to first understand the rules – and they aren't always that clear, as one reader who wrote to us pointed out. 

Gordon Spector, a British retiree living in the south west of France said: “From reading relevant online sites I understood that if I was a member of the French healthcare system with a social security number I (and all Britions in same situation as I in France) would be entitled to apply online to the French 'CEAM' European travel health card.”
Gordon said he believed that as a resident in France, he would not be entitled to the UK's EHIC card. 

Photo: AFP

But somewhat confusingly there are a few exceptions to the rule regarding EHIC vs. CEAM cards. 
The page on the NHS website covering this subjects states that if you live abroad and you:
  • receive a UK State Pension or exportable UK benefit
  • you are a posted or frontier worker
  • or you are living in the EEA and are family member of someone working in the UK
then you need to apply to renew your EHIC by contacting Overseas Healthcare Services. You can find the address under the Living abroad section here, as well as a contact number. 
British pensioners in France are registered with their local health authority in France with an S1 form. 
This form means that the UK is your ‘competent state' – responsible for funding your healthcare. You are affiliated to the French health system via CPAM and receive health care on the same basis as a French national, but the UK reimburses France for your health care costs.
Similarly holding an EHIC card, rather than a CEAM, means that the UK will cover any emergency treatment you need in other EU countries.