It is well recognised that a majority of patients cured from cancer are cured by surgery. However, surgical oncology is not recognised as a subspecialty in all European countries. One of the Society's aims is to have this field established as an important specialty in oncology. Advanced surgical oncology has just been recognised as a defined specialisation by US regulatory authorities in an effort to raise the quality and consistency of cancer surgery across the United States. The situation in Europe is more complex as regulatory controls over training and certification are handled independently by each member state and are very variable. Promoting education and training in state of the art cancer surgery across the European Union is thus one of the main objectives of ESSO.
Hence, the Education Committee of ESSO offers a range of fellowships to support trainees in surgical oncology to visit centres of oncological excellence, both within and outside Europe, to sponsor their attendance at ESSO Congresses or the prestigious MCCR workshop on methods in clinical cancer research (organised jointly by ECCO, ASCO, EORTC and ESMO).
The ESSO Education and Training Committee also developed a Core Curriculum in surgical oncology with recommendations for a fundamental knowledge set which all practicing surgical oncologists should aspire to. This encompasses not just the latest surgical techniques but the underpinning molecular biology of cancer and its treatments, palliative care and psycho-oncology: all vital to ensure that the modern surgical oncologist can offer treatment of the highest standard but can also understand the principles behind these treatments and so advance knowledge through research.
In addition to the Core Curriculum and the training fellowships, ESSO has developed a surgical oncology examination, in partnership with the Surgical Board of UEMS. This examination is open to suitably qualified European candidates, and will provide validation of a surgeon’s continued professional development in the field of surgical oncology as well as indicating his/her competency to practise in this area.
ESSO endeavours to foster a multi-disciplinary collaboration in the management of cancer patients, and hence to actively contribute to educational projects and courses on specific tumours in partnership with other cancer organisations. Examples of ESSO-run courses include ones on HIPEC, rectal cancer, liver metastases and breast cancer. ESSO also collaborates with other societies to provide academic input into a wide range of ESSO-labelled courses, providing recommendations for course content and the best speakers in the field.
Last but not least, ESSO organises a yearly congress featuring a strong educational programme. On even years, the ESSO congress is dedicated to surgical oncology. During uneven years, the ESSO congress is integrated into the European Cancer Congress organised by ECCO of which ESSO is a founding member.