Dr Basel Shoua of Arizona Oncology On The 5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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Educate yourself about your cancer. Talk to and read stories of previous patients who have gone through successful treatments with prostate cancer.

Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. There is so much great information out there, but sometimes it is very difficult to filter out the noise. What causes cancer? Can it be prevented? How do you detect it? What are the odds of survival today? What are the different forms of cancer? What are the best treatments? And what is the best way to support someone impacted by cancer?

In this interview series called, “5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer” we are talking to experts about cancer such as oncologists, researchers, and medical directors to address these questions. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Basel Shoua MD.

Basel Shoua, MD, earned his medical degree at the University of Aleppo, Faculty of Medicine. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of California Los Angeles, Kern Medical Center, where he also served as chief resident. Dr. Shoua completed his fellowship in hematology and oncology at the University of Arizona in Tucson and served as chief hematology and oncology fellow.

In 2022, he received the Arizona Clinical Oncology Society Outstanding Fellow Award. He specializes in bone marrow biopsy and intrathecal chemotherapy. He has a special interest in lung, GI, and breast malignancy as well as benign and malignant hematology.

In his spare time, Dr. Shoua enjoys spending time with his family and friends, playing basketball, and traveling the world to explore new places. He is fluent in English and Arabic.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. What or who inspired you to pursue your career? Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born and raised in a small town in Syria in a middle-class family. My father is a Radiologist. I grew up watching him work very hard to provide for his family and deliver the best care to his patients. His experience and the way he treated everyone have inspired me to pursue medicine.

I moved to the US after I finished medical school in Syria. I worked as a research coordinator while studying for my exams. Around that time, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with AML. Her oncologist was an excellent role model — very kind, knowledgeable and caring. She delivered the best care anyone could ask for. Sadly, my mother-in-law passed away after her disease relapsed post-bone marrow transplant. That was the day I decided to pursue an Oncology career. There is no more rewarding job than caring for patients at the most difficult time of their life. Oncology is a field that I will never get bored of. It is constantly interesting and gives me the chance to communicate with my patients and follow them on regular basis.

This is not easy work, what is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?

I like people and like communicating with people. Oncology is a field that gives me the chance to build strong relationships with my patients and their families. My philosophy when I treat patients with cancer is to make my patients live longer and live better by improving and maintaining their quality of life. When people hear the word “cancer”, they think it is a death sentence. However, there has been significant improvement in the oncology field in which we are able to cure or control malignancy and prolong survival while maintaining quality of life.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now, how do you think that might help people?

Here at Arizona Oncology, I work with a group of fantastic people. Our mission is to provide the best care for the patient. We work as a team to improve patient outcomes. We have a specific research team and have access to US oncology clinical trials. We have a multidisciplinary approach through our weekly tumor board that includes different specialties including surgery, pathology, radiation oncology and radiologist which enable us to format a comprehensive individualized treatment plan for our patients.

For the benefits of our reader, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide. For the early stages of prostate cancer, surgery or radiation alone can be used for a cure. For advanced stages, medical oncologists manage the patients in collaboration with radiation oncologists and urologists.

What exactly is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is essentially cells in the prostate that have become abnormal and now have the prosperities of uncontrolled growth and the ability to leave the primary location to travel to other parts of the body.

What causes prostate cancer?

The most important risk factor for the development of prostate cancer is increasing age. Prostate cancer has a strong inherited component. Men with a family history of prostate cancer are at increased risk for having the disease. Epidemiologic studies have shown that the risk of prostate cancer is higher in African Americans compared to other ethnic groups and that it can occur at an earlier age.

What is the difference between the different form of prostate cancer?

The most common form of prostate cancer is adenocarcinoma which accounts for more than 95% of prostate malignancies. Other forms like Neuroendocrine tumor could be with small cell features which tend to be fast growing with higher tendency to metastasize to other parts of the body. Primary prostate Urothelial carcinoma is a very rare form of prostate cancer as well. However, urothelial carcinoma involving the prostate as part of bladder carcinoma is common.

How can prostate cancer be prevented?

Potentially modifiable lifestyle factors, particularly smoking and obesity, have shown to increase risk of prostate cancer. Smoking cessation and diet that is associated with good cardiovascular health may also contribute to preventing the initiation and progression of prostate cancer. 5-Alpha-reductase inhibitors have been shown to decrease the incidence of prostate cancer, however, no trial has demonstrated an impact on prostate cancer mortality and these agents have significant side effects.

How can one detect the main forms of prostate cancer?

The best available evidence found that screening has, at most, small benefits in reducing prostate cancer mortality. It should be a shared decision between the patient and their physician discussing risks (like false positive test, biopsy, anxiety, complications) and benefits of prostate cancer screening.

Diagnosis of prostate cancer is made by prostate biopsy.

Cancer used to almost be a death sentence, but it seems that it has changed today, what are the odds of surviving prostate cancer today?

Prostate cancer at an early stage is a highly curable disease. Treatment approaches include hormonal therapy, radiation or surgery. For metastatic disease, survival has improved significantly with the ability to maintain a good quality of life by implementing the different treatment options which include hormonal treatment, radiation and chemotherapy.

Can you share some of the new cutting-edge treatments for cancer that have recently emerged? What new cancer treatment innovations are you most excited to see come to fruition in the near future?

Prostate cancer management has been advancing significantly in the last decade. We have a lot of great options that have been proven to improve survival. One of the new mechanisms to find prostate cancer, especially in the relapse refractory setting, is Lutelium Lu 177 vipivotide tetraxetan which is the first targeted radioligand therapy for the treatment of adult patients with a certain type of advanced prostate cancer that has certain receptors positive on their scan.

Healing usually takes place between doctor visits. What have you found to be most beneficial to assist a patient to heal?

Many factors can assist in healing cancer patients. The most beneficial factor is to build up a patient’s motivation. When patients are actively treated, they may have a sense of safety that they are aggressively attacking their cancer. They can access their doctors or nurses during their treatments. However, once treatments are over, they may lose that sense of security. Being available after their treatments for questions or problems can help in both their physical and emotional recovery.

From your experience, what are a few of the best ways to support a loved one, friend, or colleague who is impacted by cancer?

Be with your loved ones, support your loved ones’ treatment decisions, learn about their needs and assist them in whatever way possible.

What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?

One of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer is when a patient has researched their cancer on their own on the Internet and applied those findings to themselves. Unfortunately, some of the information on the Internet may not be correct and patients may decide against treatment based on inaccurate information.

Based on your experiences and knowledge, what are your “5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Prostate Cancer?

  1. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide
  2. The most important risk factor for the development of prostate cancer is increasing age
  3. Early and localized prostate cancers are highly curable with radiation or surgery
  4. Advanced prostate cancer has a lot of different treatment options that are proven to improve survival and quality of life
  5. Educate yourself about your cancer. Talk to and read stories of previous patients who have gone through successful treatments with prostate cancer.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

It would be cancer screening for early detection as the cure starts with prevention.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.

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Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor