RADHICA DE SILVA
Some doctors in T&T still see liver and pancreas cancers as terminal diseases which cannot be cured, so they fail to refer patients for treatment.
This was revealed by President of the Caribbean Chapter of the Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association (AHPBA), Professor Shamir Cawich.
The president and his team, which includes Vice President Dr Ravi Maharaj and General Secretary Dr Ammiel Arra, hosted a meeting on Saturday to share scientific knowledge on Pancreatic Cancer, Liver Tumours and Colon Cancer.
Dr Arra, who conceptualised and organized the international conference, said it was meant to further local, regional and international collaboration among medical peers.
Professor Cawich, who has led the development of Laparoscopic Liver and Pancreatic Surgery in T&T, said the meeting was geared at improving the understanding of diseases of the liver, pancreas and bile ducts.
Expressing the need for collaboration internationally, Cawich said more should be done to create awareness of ongoing medical research.
“Many persons in T&T, and that includes some doctors, still see liver and pancreas cancers as a terminal diagnosis and so, patients are not referred for treatment. Increased education is needed to remind doctors that this is no longer the case in 2021,” Professor Cawich said.
He added: “These conditions can now safely be treated in T&T with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy for good survival results.”
He explained that the operations to treat pancreas and liver cancers were available in the public system in the major Regional Health Authorities, as well as the private sector hospitals.
“Surgery on the Liver and the Pancreas are among the most demanding surgeries for patients and technically complex for surgeons. In an attempt to improve care for patients who need operations of the liver and pancreas, regional specialists formed a professional association,” Professor Cawich explained.
He noted that in 2015, the group was formally recognized by the world association, known as the Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association (AHPBA).
“The Caribbean Chapter of the AHPBA includes a panel of Specialist Liver and Pancreas Surgeons from across the Caribbean. Several hundred medical professionals from many countries across the globe, including the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, India, Brazil, Turkey, Chile and Nepal, attended the conference,” he added.
Because of the work of the Association, there has been ongoing research into cancers of the liver and pancreas, Professor Cawich added.
“We have also been evaluating patient outcomes after surgery for these conditions. This research has shown that the outcomes after surgery to treat these cancers in T&T is comparable to any other high-volume hospital across the world. But still, there is much to be done,” he said.
He also lamented that there was still a lack of awareness of the symptoms and signs of pancreas and liver cancers.
“As a result, many patients in T&T present in late stages of the disease. An increase in awareness and screening for high-risk patients may help the nation to detect these cancers at an earlier stage,” he said.
Professor Cawich also commended the Caribbean Chapter of the AHPBA for its invaluable contribution to liver and pancreas surgery in T&T, saying with collaboration, more can be achieved.
Among those attending the meeting were Specialist Liver and Pancreas Surgeons from the Caribbean, India, United States of America and Canada.