A new perspective on oncology imaging in SA

A new perspective on oncology imaging in SA

Despite the prevalence and considerable burden of cancer in South Africa, a dedicated oncology imaging body did not exist in the country until late last year. Six months after its establishment in November 2023, the Oncology Imaging Society of South Africa (OISSA) has seen encouraging signs that its efforts will bear fruit.

This is according to Dr Anne-Marie du Plessis, SCP radiologist and inaugural vice-chairperson of OISSA. She answers five pertinent questions about the task at hand and how this new professional association of radiologists will benefit oncologists and their patients in the long run.

The Oncology Imaging Society of South Africa is very new. Why wasn’t it established earlier and why is there a need for it now?

There has long been a need for a subspeciality group dedicated to oncology. The reason that OISSA has only been established now, most likely stems from the fact that there is a great need for subspeciality groups within the RSSA but we are a comparatively small society.

RSSA membership totals just about 900 individual radiologists from one hundred or so practices. Between us, we actively steer subspeciality groups for breast imaging, interventional, neuro and neuro-interventional radiology, cardiac, paediatric, and MSK imaging.

Ensuring that professional associations are run effectively takes a great deal of professional artistry and we are thankful that we could find the capacity to launch OISSA.

What do you wish to achieve with this newly formed association?

Our main purpose is to share information to help radiologists across the country standardise their reporting in oncology. We will also actively share complex cases to gain expertise and confidence in reporting them.

By doing so, we aim to provide smaller radiology practices, that don’t have subspeciality-trained radiologists on their staff, the opportunity to share their difficult cases and obtain expert opinions. Naturally, sharing expertise across the bigger practices holds great benefit too.

Although it will not happen overnight, this will hopefully spill over into improved reporting of oncology cases to better guide patient treatment and optimise patient care overall.


Dr Anne-Marie du Plessis | SCP Radiologist


What does it mean for radiologists across the country?

I have been pleasantly surprised by the buy-in with our most recent webinar, which 220 participants attended. The RSSA doesn’t only cater to South African radiologists but has a regional footprint in Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.

The webinar was very well received with comments from radiologists as far as Windhoek. I think this speaks to radiologists’ need for connection with peers; particularly the need for dedicated learning in oncology imaging. The enthusiasm of the RSSA members to participate is promising to say the least.

More importantly, what does it mean for oncologists in South Africa and its neighbouring countries?

On a high level, there will be two big wins. We will extend the reach of oncology-specific knowledge and deepen our understanding of oncology imaging by collectively honing our skills.

As radiologists, we often face challenging cases that involve complex tumour anatomy, variable imaging characteristics where tumours are heterogeneous or atypical, or differentiation issues where it is hard to distinguish between lesions with overlapping features. This can be further complicated by metastasis that involves multiple organ systems and hard-to-reach locations, or treatment-induced changes in the body.

All of this affects the support that we can provide to oncologists. Oncology imaging can be extremely complex and, by improving our knowledge and skill in screening, diagnosis, and staging of cases, we as a society will be better equipped to provide a service to oncologists. More detailed and structured information from radiologists will ultimately aid more refined treatment plans for patients.

On a personal note: You recently obtained your EDiNR and you’re busy with your PhD in adolescent chest imaging at the University of Cape Town. It’s a diverse range of interests. Where does your interest in oncology imaging come from and how do you view your contribution to OISSA?

My diverse range stems from necessity. I was in public health for more than ten years, where general radiology is practised and taught, and subspeciality training is not so much catered for. Since moving into private practice more than five years ago, I have developed a personal interest in oncology, mainly in Head and Neck Imaging. Although I play a big part in breast imaging in our practice, it is in the field of Head and Neck that I hope to contribute to OISSA.