During my elective I volunteered at the Radiotherapy Centre in Korle Bu teaching hospital, Accra in Ghana. This elective was inspired by an article in Scope about the “paRTner” collaboration between physicists in the UK and Ghana.
Radiotherapy in Ghana
Although better off than the surrounding countries (which have no radiotherapy provision), radiotherapy treatment need still outweighs capacity in Ghana. There are two public radiotherapy departments which serve a population of ~50M, half of which are patients from the surrounding countries.
Unfortunately most patients are treated palliatively due to the very late presentation of most cancers. The cultural stigma surrounding cancer; the lack of screening and treatment facilities; and the very different cancer spectrum compared to the western world all contribute to the complexity of the problem. A confounding factor is the lack of data, for example on the prevalence and types of cancer, which would enable research and evidence needed to petition governmental bodies for provision. Such research is limited by the paper-only records at Korle Bu which renders data extraction prohibitively time-consuming. This also limits workflow efficiency, and contributes to safety and security issues.
My elective aim was therefore to create an electronic records database, within which research data could be collected and safety systems installed. To do this it was important to spend time understanding the needs of the department, as well as the nature of research intended to be carried out.
The project was challenging for the timeframe, and though largely complete did remain untested. The aim is now for the department to implement it as a research tool in a breast cancer research project; this will test its use and identify issues to be resolved before implementation as a clinical tool.
During the project I am grateful to have worked alongside the Ghanaian Physicists and also in collaboration with Dr Kate Ricketts – a leader in the paRTner initiative. I was very glad to be supported by staff at Korle Bu who provided much needed advice, and became good friends!
I am also very grateful for the hospitality of lead
Physicist Samuel Tagoe who kindly offered me accommodation in his family home. This was an unforgettable experience, leaving me with many happy memories with himself, his lovely wife Doris and their fantastic children!
I was very fortunate to be awarded an IPEM bursary for my visit. My application for the bursary was considered on the basis of it being work on charitable grounds, since IPEM do not fund electives.
Dr Robyn Cooke, Medical Physics trainee, University Hospital of North Durham