Knowing Dr. Viswanathan Shanta: Face of Cancer Care

Knowing Dr. Viswanathan Shanta: Face of Cancer Care

Dr Viswanathan Shanta (1927-2021), the Indian oncologist who was best known for her efforts towards making quality and affordable cancer treatment accessible in the nation, passed away earlier this week. Let’s know more about the Padma Bhushan awardee’s life in this piece dedicated to her contributions.

Crux of the Matter

Who Was She?
She was born on 11 March 1927, at Mylapore, Chennai, into a family of Nobel Laureates: C.V. Raman (grand uncle) and S. Chandrasekar (uncle). This was a time when Indian women generally entered the field of obstetrics and gynaecology.

Work In Cancer Institute (WIA)
Also called Adyar Cancer Institute, it is an Indian non-profit cancer treatment and research centre based in Chennai, wherein initially there were 2 doctors, Shanta and Krishnamurthi. She worked there from 1955 to 2021, where she became the director (1980-1997) and chairperson thereafter.

What Is Oncology?

  • Oncology is a branch of medical science, which deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.
  • There are 3 major areas of the branch: medical, surgical, and radiation.

Member Of Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission For Health
As a member, she was a strong advocate of early detection of cancer and the need to change public perception of the disease, particularly the extreme fear and hopelessness associated with it.

International Presence
She served as a member of several national and international committees on health and medicine, as the WHO Advisory Committee on Health.

In an era when specialised medical care in India has become highly commercialised, Dr. Shanta strives to ensure that the Institute remains true to its ethos, `Service to all.’ Its services are free or subsidised for some 60% of its 100,000 annual patients […] 87-year-old Shanta still sees patients.

One Of The Award Citations For Her

  • The etymological origin of the word Oncology is the Greek word ‘óngkos’, meaning “burden, volume, mass”, and the Greek word ‘logos’ meaning “study”.
  • The SPIKES protocol is a method used in clinical medicine to break bad news to patients and families. As receiving bad news can cause distress and anxiety, clinicians need to deliver the news carefully. By using the SPIKES method for introducing and communicating information to patients and their families, it can aid in the presentation of the material.
  • Percivall Pott was an English surgeon, one of the founders of orthopaedics, and the first scientist to demonstrate that a cancer may be caused by an environmental carcinogen.