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V Shanta, a lifetime of battling Big C

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on January 19, 2021

The ‘no nonsense, no frills’ doc built the world-class Cancer Institute in Chennai

If medical oncologists anywhere in the country speak a little Tamil, it’s perhaps because they have trained at the Adyar Cancer Institute under V Shanta, says T Raja, Director (Medical Oncology) at Chennai’s Apollo Cancer Centre.

“She was a mother, a mentor and an inspiration,” he says of the iconic Dr Shanta, who died of heart attack in Chennai on Tuesday, at 93. She was a visionary and responsible for making medical oncology popular as a speciality across the country, he points out.

Several niche areas like “organ preservation” and paediatric oncology, to name just a couple, can be specifically attributed to her, he says.

The renowned oncologist, cancer crusader and Chairperson of the Adyar Cancer Institute, Chennai, received several national and international awards including the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan for her contribution to oncology. She also received Ramon Magsaysay for public service in 2005.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the earliest to condole her death. “Dr V Shanta will be remembered for her outstanding efforts to ensure top quality cancer care,” he said in his condolence tweet. Leading doctors, other members of the medical fraternity, politicians and celebrities also expressed their condolences in social media.

At Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Centre, staff maintained a minute’s silence for Shanta. “Three generations of my family knew her,” says veteran diabetologist V Mohan, who describes her as a “no-nonsense, no frills” person.

Innovative treatment

She brought in many innovations, recalls Mohan. . He points to the innovative manner in treating breast cancer, for instance, where Shanta’s approach was to treat the tumour with chemotherapy, rather than tackle it first with surgery.

“It’s not just medical oncology, but the entire field of oncology that will feel her loss,” says Kumar Prabhash, who trained at her institute She also started the medical oncology training degree course, says Prabhash, Professor and Head of Department (medical oncology) at Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital.

“Madam was active and went regularly on hospital rounds,” he says, adding, “anyone you speak to, about her, they will have respect and affection for her.”

With inputs from our Chennai Bureau

Published on January 19, 2021

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