photo: Marcia van Oers

PHILIPSBURG – ‘Pink October’ is breast cancer awareness month. Becoming ‘Breast Aware’ is the goal of this month. 28 medical facilities on the island are offering free preventive breast cancer checks.

One of the questions on everyone’s mind is if Sint Maarten is properly equipped to treat breast cancer. Patients regularly have to fly to countries such as Guadeloupe, Santo Domingo, Colombia, and the Netherlands for treatment.

On October 5th the ‘Pink Parade’ was held on Sint Maarten, reporter Marcia van Oers talked to the participants:

By Marcia van Oers

General director Kees Klarenbeek of the Sint Maarten Medical Center (SMMC): “We’ve concocted a plan to optimize the diagnostic tools used in conjunction with mammograms. That means that we’re looking to invest in a new mammogram machine, which can precisely detect small tumors. We also have to train the staff to work with this new machine. We are currently trying to find the space in our budget to train our staff and increase the number of employees who are able to operate the machine.”

Chemotherapy on Sint-Maarten, radiation therapy on Curaçao
Marcellina Loblack is a breast cancer survivor and the founder of Still Beautiful, a foundation which provides guidance and support groups to those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. “I got chemo on Sint Maarten but radiation therapy on Curaçao because this isn’t possible on Sint Maarten”, says Loblack. She believes that a lot of positive changes have been implemented within the healthcare system over the past few years, like reconstructive surgery after one year. “But when it comes to ‘BRA testing’ there’s room for improvement!”

The follow-up care shouldn’t be forgotten either. Marcellina: “A support group is needed to help you with your daily activities and to help you and your family process the situation.”

Free mammograms
The SMMC is offering breast exams and 100 free mammograms. “If that number were to rise, we would encourage it. Actually anyone can just walk in during the afternoons and get a voucher through the Positive Foundation which organizes, amongst other things, breast exams”, says Klarenbeek

The SMMC works together with an academic hospital in the Netherlands to better treat breast cancer, according to SMMC’s medical director Felix Holiday: “We work together with doctors who all have different sub-specialties in the Netherlands. They can also provide input to improve the standard of care provided when it comes to (breast) cancer.

The future of healthcare on Sint-Maarten

Kees Klarenbeek would like to see a complete healthcare package in the future where the patient comes first and isn’t a pawn in the game between different parties like the GP, the hospital and the insurance companies.

“The patient would come to us for a diagnosis. If we as the hospital discover that we can’t offer a certain treatment to the patient, we would explore the possibilities with different hospitals which we have agreements with, as to where the best care can be provided. We would love for our specialist to remain responsible for the primary care of the patient, together with the specialist in the other hospital. When the needed treatment has been provided, the patient would come back here so that we can continue with the follow-up care. That’s how the SMMC would function as a care manager.”