Two-year fellowship for gynaecologists

By Rhonda Krystal Rambally
Everyone knows about cancer, but not everyone knows about prevention and detection, especially among women.

Long-standing gynaecologic oncologist, Dr Tim Gopeesingh says there has not been a concerted and collective effort across the Caribbean to raise awareness about a disease that is the leading cause of death in women in T&T.

In the English Caribbean, breast and cervical cancer are the leading cancers among women, with more than 16,000 women diagnosed and more than 6,000 women dying from this disease each year. This according to the Pan American Health Organization.

Last month, Gopeesingh, who is an honorary member of the Caribbean Gynaecological Cancer Society, attended a two-day meeting at the University of Miami with senior medical faculty members of the University of Toronto to examine the prevention, early detection, and management of gynaecological cancers within the Caribbean.

Gopeesingh told the Sunday Guardian that faculty members from all four campuses of The University of the West Indies, School of Medicine came together to formalise a curriculum for post-doctoral fellowships for gynaecologists in the Caribbean.

The two-year gynaecologic oncology fellowship will be for those who are already qualified in the field of gynaecology.

Gopeesingh said: “We hope to train more and more. There are about eight of us in the Caribbean.”

Gopeesingh was the first to have trained in 1988 at the University of Toronto as a visiting assistant professor.

“So now, as we put this programme together, we will be approaching the Caricom Secretariat to discuss with Caricom Ministers of Health, the way forward.

“A follow-up meeting is expected to he held in March in Barbados.

“Our society will be able to work with surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, and pathologists. So we will be bringing this to a wider section, not only gynaecologic cancer but to other types of cancers.”

Asked for statistics on cancers in T&T, Gopeesingh said cancer was the leading cause of death in women in this country.

“It is the second leading cause of death in men. Gynaecologic cancers account for 60 per cent of cancer deaths in Trinidad—breast is leading with about 200 deaths a year; cervical cancer is about 120 (deaths); ovarian and uterine cancers…we find there is an increase in uterine cancers as well.”

It is advised that once a woman has had a number of pap smears that are normal, she should have it done every two years. A mammography should be done every year after 40.

Those with a family history should be routinely screened.

“And so, our role will be moving into the health sectors and advising the health sectors across the Caribbean in terms of prevention,” he said.

He said for the breasts, patients will be advised on the role of a mammography; for the cervix, patients will be informed of pap smears, and for ovarian and uterine cancers, there will be public education.

Gopeesingh said: “Everyone knows about cancers but there has been no concerted and collective effort across the Caribbean.”

He added that 50 per cent of cancers are curable. Sensitising the public is key to prevention and early detection, Gopeesingh said.

Asked if enough was done, he said: “No. That’s where we need to sensitise the population and take it to Caricom and hopefully we can put that on the agenda just as we put non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.”

He added that he has had discussions with Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh about working on a women’s health facility.

“I look forward to assisting in that respect.” (Trinidad Guardian)

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