On October 5, 2020, former State Secretary Paul Blokhuis ordered the introduction of population screening programs for cancer on Bonaire, Statia and Saba. In the European Netherlands we have three cancer screening programs: the breast cancer, cervical cancer and colorectal cancer screening. The Center for Population Screening of the RIVM organizes these population screenings in the Caribbean Netherlands.
As a first step, a pilot for breast cancer screening was started on Bonaire in the autumn of 2019. The pilot was evaluated in the spring of 2020. The RIVM then advised the ministry to continue with the introduction of screening programs on Bonaire, Statia and Saba.
RIVM has been asked to gradually increase the possibilities to take part in the screenings to the level offered in the European Netherlands. The Caribbean Netherlands always start from a pilot setting, in order to investigate possibilities in terms of organization, quality and accessibility. This is a necessary and appropriate approach, because the islands have major differences in social, geographical and organizational context. We want to carry out the population screening as well as possible. This means that all organizations involved must work well together. Only then the research can contribute to better health for the islanders. There is broad support among professionals on the islands for introducing screening programs.
Cervical cancer screening will start on Saba in February 2022. Early detection and treatment of precancerous stages can prevent cervical cancer. Participation is free and voluntary. In the implementation we make use of the facilities and possibilities that are already present. We will continue to work on further improving the cervical cancer screening. This requires continuous investment in training, staff expertise and other quality aspects.
RIVM has also completed research into the question whether it is also possible to set up pilots for cancer screening programs on Statia . In 2022, pilots will start for the cervical cancer screening on Statia and Bonaire. Colorectal cancer screening pilots are expected to start in 2023.