Despite the fact that cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable cancers if it is detected early and managed effectively, hundreds of thousands of women die from this disease each year, most of them residing in low- and middle-income countries.
Now, IGCS Members have the elimination of cervical cancer in their sights, aiming to reduce the incidence and mortality the disease by training a multitude of specialists armed with the knowledge to prevent and treat. Through the IGCS’ mentorship and training programs, we’ve been able to formalize a training curriculum with the intention to spread this live-saving information worldwide.
Cervical cancer develops very slowly. In fact, once cells in the cervix begin to undergo abnormal changes, it can take 10-20 years for the cells to grow into invasive cervical cancer. This is why the screening and treatment of preinvasive disease (the abnormal cellular changes before cancer) is so important and effective. It’s also the reason why IGCS members developed the Preinvasive Disease Training Program — to provide and formalize the training of IGCS members worldwide.
In 2017, IGCS launched the Gynecologic Oncology Global Curriculum to formally train gynecologic oncologist specialists on the management of gynecologic malignancies in low-resource countries. Our leadership (including Dr. Kathleen Schmeler, former IGCS Global Curriculum Chair and Dr. Joseph Ng, current Chair) quickly realized that the trainees enrolled would also benefit from training in the basic techniques to stop cancer before it even starts - thus the IGCS Preinvasive Disease Program was conceived.
They knew just the professors for the task – Dr. Ida Ismail Pratt MBChB (Glasgow), MRCOG, BSCCP and Dr. Mila Pontremoli Salcedo, MD, PhD who both specialize in colposcopy and cervical pathology. Between the two of them, thousands of clinicians have been trained on the management of preinvasive disease.
Dr. Salcedo said that especially in low-and middle-income countries, the need for training in cervical cancer screening and the management of preinvasive disease is incredibly urgent.
When the World Health Organization formulated the global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030, IGCS members knew that this was the time to work quickly in training more specialists worldwide, increasing the manpower and expertise to respond to the call.
IGCS needed a simple, yet comprehensive training program that would allow the clinicians to start seeing patients right away.
Dr. Mila Pontremoli Salcedo provides instruction at the IGCS Annual Global Meeting.
Dr. Pratt and Dr. Salcedo assembled a team of expert volunteers to develop educational materials and record lectures for the online curriculum. In less than a year, the learning program launched (available free to all IGCS Members) consisting of two self-guided educational courses that the learners could access online (Phase 1: Basic Theory and Phase 2: Advanced Theory). After completing the online training and demonstrating they meet the necessary requirements, the learners are invited to a hands-on workshop hosted by the IGCS to be trained in practical skills and assessed in their technical competency.
The first hands-on workshop in association with the training program was held in New York during the 2022 IGCS Annual Global Meeting with 29 participants from 17 countries. IGCS had previously hosted a preinvasive training workshop at the 2019 Annual Global Meeting in Rio de Janeiro prior to the curriculum being formalized.
As they reviewed the post-workshop feedback assessment from New York, Dr. Pratt and Dr. Salcedo noticed that most, if not all trainees said that their knowledge and confidence in a number of skills increased significantly after completing the course and workshop. Dr. Pratt was also proud to share that IGCS allows the learners to go back and review the videos and materials in the IGCS Education360 Learning portal at any time. There is no limit to their ability to access the course, so long as they are a member of the IGCS.
Dr. Pratt and Dr. Salcedo agreed that the involvement of IGCS’ highly-qualified volunteer mentors is one of the biggest keys to the success of the program, and one that would ensure that IGCS’ high standards of patient care would be upheld. It’s also one of the biggest challenges they are working to overcome — getting the right people in the right places to continue the training and mentorship for the clinicians who see patients every day.
IGCS is fortunate to have a team of volunteer expert mentors involved in the Global Curriculum and Preinvasive Disease Training Program. Where these trusted mentors are in place, the training and mentorship will continue. We plan to hold additional workshops in strategic locations around the world, so please check our website to find out when and where the next training will be held and email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
With more trained experts in the world, everyone can have access to the necessary prevention, screening and treatment that saves lives. Through programs such as this, we utilize the strengths of IGCS members, the gynecologic cancer experts, and the elimination of cervical cancer is within our reach.
Our gratitude goes to all the volunteers who dedicate their time and expertise to our educational programs and to all those who come ready to learn and be champions for change. Our membership is mighty and together, we will transform gynecologic cancer care worldwide.
Dr. Ida Ismail Pratt providing instruction at the IGCS Global Curriculum Training Site in DaNang Vietnam.
Dr. Mila Salcedo is an Instructor and Director of Training & Education for the Program for Reducing of Cervical Cancer at The Department of Gynecologic Oncology & Reproductive Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston/Texas. Dr. Salcedo is the co-Chair of Preinvasive Program at the International Gynecologic Cancer Society and the International Affairs Advisor for Teaching and Research at Santa Casa Hospital in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Dr. Salcedo served as an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Federal University of Health Sciences of Porto Alegre (UFCSPA)/Brazil, where she was the Director of the Gynecology and Obstetrics Department at UFCSPA and the Chair and Director of Gynecology at Santa Casa de Misericordia Hospital of Porto Alegre, Brazil. Her primary research interests are in HPV, cervical and vulvar cancer prevention, and lower genital tract disease, especially in low resource settings.
Dr. Ida Ismail Pratt is an OB/GYN specialist and medical director for The Obstetrics & Gynecology Centre in Singapore. She was a consultant OB/GYN at the National University Hospital (NUH) and National Cancer Institute Singapore (NCIS) and championed the introduction of HPV DNA test in Singapore as an alternative to the cytology-based national cervical screening program in 2014.
IGCS members reading this — if you are interested in being a volunteer mentor with the IGCS, please get in touch. We need experts in every medical discipline involved in gynecologic cancer care. You can get started with just one Project ECHO virtual tumor board session. Email our mentorship and training program manager, Susan Ralph at email@example.com to find out more.