January 19 - 25 European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. The European Cervical Cancer Association (ECCA) launched this week 8 years ago to increase public awareness of cervical cancer, and of ways of preventing this disease. Each year, cervical cancer kills 250,000 women throughout the world. Yet this disease can usually be prevented by effective screening and vaccination. Nevertheless, many women are poorly informed about this disease, and many European countries have inadequate prevention programmes.

In the Netherlands, screening is well organised and free of charge. About 800,000 Dutch women  receive invitations to attend a screening each year. In this way, every woman between the ages of 30 and 60 who wishes to do so, can have the necessary tests. Once every five years, they are invited to have a smear taken at their GP’s surgery.

200-250 women die from cervical cancer every year in The Netherlands. Cervical cancer is less common here than elsewhere in Europe. This is partly due to the fact that screening is free of charge. Without screening, about 400 women a year would likely die from cervical cancer.

At the end of 2013, Edith Schippers, the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, decided to renew this screening programme. In the future, it will include a test for the presence of the hr-HPV virus. This virus can cause cervical cancer. The new screening programme will yield additional health gains. With effect from 1 January 2016, Dutch women will receive invitations to attend the new screening.

RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment

The Centre for Population Screening is part of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). It sets the standards governing the quality and implementation of the screening programme. This work is carried out at the instigation of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. RIVM will be coordinating preparations for the new screening programme. Five regional screening organisations are responsible for implementing the cervical cancer screening programme.

Olive Foundation

Olive Foundation is a network of women who have (or have had) gynaecological cancer, their partners and families. The primary goal of the organisation is to facilitate contact between fellow sufferers. This involves contact mornings and telephone calls to female contacts, as well as real-life stories posted on the website and published in the Olijfschrift magazine. Olive Foundation is involved in various aspects of the screening programme, especially in the preparation of educational material.

8th European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

Across Europe events are organised to raise awareness for cervical cancer. Dr Nynke van der Veen, Programme Coordinator of the cervical cancer screening programme at RIVM opened the NYSE Euronext stock exchange on 21 January by striking the gong.

For further details (Dutch only)

www.rivm.nl/bevolkingsonderzoeknaarkanker
http://www.olijf.nl/