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Preparations for a national screening programme for bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is one of the most common causes of death in The Netherlands. In 2011 over 5,000 people died from bowel cancer and around 13,000 people were diagnosed with the disease. This figure is expected to rise over the next few years. Thanks to a screening programme bowel cancer can be prevented or can be detected and treated at an early stage.

In the long term the screening programme is expected to prevent 2,400 deaths a year from bowel cancer.

Good preparation

RIVM is coordinating the introduction of a screening programme for bowel cancer and is collaborating closely with all the parties involved. The preparation work for the introduction of the programme took two years. Good preparation is necessary for the organisation of good-quality screening, the associated diagnostics and care. The screening programme is being phased in in order to build up the required health-care capacity. The aim is that by 2019 everybody aged between 55 and 75 years will have been invited to take part in the screening programme at least once.


A pilot was launched in September 2013. During this pilot, which was carried out in the south-west of The Netherlands, all the processes related to the screening programme were tested in practice in preparation for the national introduction of the screening programme in January 2014. Approximately 3,000 participants were invited to take part in the study during the pilot phase.

The national screening programme for bowel cancer consists of five stages including the associated health care: selection and invitation, screening, information and referrals, diagnostics, and treatment or monitoring.