Cristián Gallardo kicks off #SouthAmericaWeek with an introduction to the subcontinent, the role of ALACP and areas of colorectal research being pursued. Cristián is from Hospital Clínico San Borja Arriarán, Santiago, Chile.

Nestled between the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and the South Atlantic Oceans, South America is considered a subcontinent of America located in the Southern Hemisphere, and a continent of superlatives. The world's biggest rainforest and the largest river (Amazon), the highest mountain range outside Asia (the Andes), remote islands (Galapagos Islands, Easter Island and Fernando de Noronha), heavenly beaches (Brazil), wide deserts (Atacama), icy landscapes (Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego), the world's tallest waterfall (the 979m Angel Falls in Venezuela) and one of the largest Falls (Iguaçu Falls in Argentina and Brazil), as well as several other breathtaking natural attractions.

South AmericaThe continent has an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers (6,890,000 sq miles). Its population as of 2018 has been estimated at more than 423 million. The continent's cultural and ethnic outlook has its origin with the interaction of indigenous peoples with European conquerors and immigrants. Given a long history of colonialism, the overwhelming majority of South Americans speak Portuguese or Spanish, and societies and states reflect western traditions.

In Latin America there has been an important demographic transition and changes in lifestyles that have triggered a greater number of cases of colon and rectal cancer. A gradual increase in its incidence has been observed, with a notable increase in Chile, Costa Rica and Argentina, from 3 to 4% per year in the last decade.

In recent years, in South America, colorectal surgery has become one of the most pursued subspecialties among young general surgeons who have just finished their surgical training, mainly due to the significant increase in the incidence of colon and rectal diseases, especially colon cancer.

The Asociación Latinoamericana de Coloproctología (ALACP), created in 1957, is the main society in this part of the world and is responsible for the promotion, dissemination and teaching of coloproctology and to bring together all the societies of the different countries allowing a regional interconnection. ALACP is actively participating in the development of South American coloproctologists through annual congresses, conferences, courses, publications and fellow training in the specialty.

To date, however, there are few social media channels which offer an online platform to discuss issues specifically related to coloproctology. These are notable examples: #SoMe4IQLatAm, @CirBosque, @Rsacp, @ircadamerica and Nueva Proctología in Facebook.

On the other hand, currently, in South America there are groups developing different lines of research within which stand out:

  • Armando Melani (Brazil) and Juan Reyes (Colombia): Artificial intelligence in surgery, robotic colorectal surgery
  • Armando Melani (Brazil) and Mario Abedrapo (Chile): TaTME
  • Rodrigo Pérez (Brazil): 'Watch and Wait' protocol
  • Paulo Kotze (Brazil): IBD surgery
  • Guillermo Bannura (Chile): Total pelvic exenteration in rectal cancer
  • Francisco López Kostner and gastroenterologist Ricardo Estela (Chile): First multicentre colorectal cancer screening programme in South America
  • Juan Patrón Uriburu (Argentina): CME in colon cancer

Hopefully, in the near future, South American coloproctologists will set up new platforms to allow users to build online communities which share their material with others on the web to refine ideas, connect with relevant groups, undertake collaborations, recruit participations, initiate debate and link with organisations.

This article is part of ESCP's Focus on COVID-19 in South America.

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