Cancer surgeon with over 29 years of experience, Dr. Kinner Shah sheds light on the simple yet difficult steps we can take to safeguard our health and well-being
Being one of the first recorded diseases to surface among human beings, there is still no real – or miracle – cure for Big C which afflicts millions of people around the world each year. Until recently, when new information surfaced that a small cancer drug trial demonstrated a 100% success rate. For the first time in the history of cancer research, a group of 18 participants took a drug called dostarlimab for six months, causing each of their tumors to disappear. Although it is hardly two to three percent of cancers for which it will be useful, for the first time in the history of medicine, there is hope of deriving a possible cure for this deadly disease, believes the Dr. Kinner Shah, MBBS, MS (General Surgery), MCH (Oncosurgery). “Until now, we have never seen all patients respond to treatment. And even though the group size was small, we never saw the complete cancer disappear. So there’s a lot of reason to be hopeful,” says Dr. Shah, a surgical oncologist with over 29 years of experience.
Dr Kinner Shah
Having treated over 10,000 cancer patients during his career, Dr. Shah treats a variety of different cancers including head and neck cancers, breast cancers among others. Seeing the field of cancer treatment evolve dramatically over the previous decades, the doctor believes that general awareness of the nature of the disease has played a pivotal role in making people more aware of preventive measures and early detection.
Although there is still a lot to be done in terms of awareness, says the doctor. “The basic thing you need to understand is that there are over 200 types of cancers. Right now, from research, we only know that tobacco, alcohol and meat are three factors responsible for almost 60-65% of cancers, and these are all lifestyle choices,” says Dr. Shah.
Although there are a range of reasons that cause cancer, which may be beyond our control, lifestyle choices can be the result of informed decisions with proper reasoning and awareness of how one can play an active role in maintaining their health and well-being. “When I tell people that [smoking, substance and meat] are the major lifestyle factors that play a role in cancer formation, they immediately turn around and say, “What’s the point of living like this?” All I’m saying is that it’s important to know the consequences of your decisions. If you’re willing to take the risk, at least educate yourself and don’t overlook the complexities that may arise. Cancer does not happen overnight. This gives you enough time. But what happens is that most of the time we ignore the signs and symptoms,” adds Dr Shah.
In addition to the list of factors, the last concern also seems to be obesity. “Obesity is now a growing risk factor for cancer. People want to label it as the new cigarette. Obesity and physical inactivity are the new equivalents of cigarette smoking. They are among the top three causes of cancer in almost eight types of cancer, including liver cancer, prostate cancer, esophageal cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer,” says Dr. Shah. “This is where the media plays a role in educating people,” he adds.
The first step, according to the cancer surgeon, in maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to opt for a physically active lifestyle over a sedentary lifestyle. “If you are physically fit and exercise regularly, it certainly protects you,” says Dr Shah, warning people against being overweight. “Everyone loves junk food, but it is really harmful. Also, these foods contain preservatives, which are chemicals. These chemicals can affect our genes and our genetic code,” he adds.
“Fresh vegetables, fruits, exercise, meditation, physical fitness and weight control are the basic requirements for a healthy life. And, of course, avoiding smoking and drug use,” concludes Dr Shah.