Positive news for cancer patients and their families was heard at the 2nd International Conference of Medical Leadership and Innovation AMLI 2018, which was held last week in Athens.

According to keynote speaker, surgical oncologist Yiannis Spiliotis, cancer “is being defeated” and over the next years it is expected to manifest as a chronic disease, like for example diabetes.

A Patra Medical School graduate, the leading medical professional worked and taught at the Montpellier University of Cancer Institute in France and returned to Greece in 1993.

He is currently director of Clinical Counselling for Peritoneal Malignancy and Surgical Oncology at the Thessaloniki ‘Diavalkaniko’ Medical Center and Athens Medical Center.

Interviewed by Greek national news agency 104.9 FM following the conference, Mr Spiliotis spoke about the evolution of treatment methods and increasing life expectancy of patients over the years and answered some of the critical questions people affected by cancer have.

His observations were based on the conference speech titled after his recently published book Cancer: Who are you? Where do you live; How Do You Live?

Presenting the first theme of the report, Mr Spiliotis explained that a great number of cancer cases can be attributed to a person’s genetic background.
“It has been shown that 25 to 30 per cent of cancers are due to a hereditary predisposition which can manifest under certain conditions,” he said.

“Having decoded the human gene since early 2000, we can now have early prognosis and accordingly prompt interventions for people to help prevent the development of malignancies.”

Patients in the 1970’s having an average prognosis of six months to a year, compared to 2010, with some patients living up to 15 to 16 years following manifestation of the disease.

A well-known example cited by Mr Spiliotis was that of actress Angelina Jolie who had a double mastectomy, stressing that in some cases it is possible to take preventative measures even for family members who have not yet manifested the disease by surgically removing the thyroid for example when someone in the family has developed a myeloid thyroid carcinoma.

A person’s surroundings, according to Mr Spiliotis, could also trigger carcinogenic mechanisms, while daily habits are crucial, especially when they relate to triggering stress.

A perhaps lesser known example he used is the potentially harmful effect of waking up before 6.00 am, as it has been shown that around that time our brain instructs a hormonal secretion which can help manage stress.

“When someone wakes up say at 5.30 am, this preventive mechanism is missing and stress, any stress, can trigger carcinogenic mechanisms, an example being emotional stress … Yet another example has to do with hair colouring, which when done more than nine times a year can increase the risk of developing leukaemia.”

Of course this does not mean that anyone dying their hair will get cancer, the surgical oncologist clarifies, noting that essentially prevention or increase of risk comes down to an array of factors.

“Lifestyle, exercise, proper nutrition, all play an important role in prevention. You need to be cautious with a range of things like smoking, driving without a helmet, etc.”

Mr Yiannis Spiliotis. Photo: nisteriskepsis.blogspot.com

One of the most common questions patients struggle with, says Mr Spiliotis is “why me?”.

But he also paints an optimistic picture for the near future.

“Cancer is being defeated … Over the next 10 years cancer will be a chronic disease. Just like it happened with tuberculosis, just like diabetes is now. One will be able to live 25 to 30 years and they may end up dying either from a cancer complication or from another issue.”

According to Mr Spiliotis, there is a positive outlook for tackling the disease considering recent advances, with patients in the 1970’s having an average prognosis of six months to a year, compared to 2010, with some patients living up to 15 to 16 years following manifestation of the disease.