Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Prostate Cancer: Ya Gotta Die of Something

I have a relative who, at a young age, had an elevated PSA (prostate specific antigen). His prostate was enlarged. He was treated aggressively. Too aggresively. A ham-handed surgeon took more than his prostate--he took his sex life. At the ripe old age of 50, he could never have sex again. And his wife was enraged about it. I suspect he isn't too happy either.

Chalk prostate cancer treatment up to men being hysterical about anything in their nether regions. Armed with too much information, doctors will go after old men, men in their 80s, for prostate cancer. Everything works, no dysfunction, they feel good, their general health is superb, but, the PSA is elevated. Three alarms sound!

Why? You have to die of something, a slow growing cancer in the last decade of life where you're more likely to die of a worn out ticker than the cancer. Besides good nutrition... Why treat it?

Another patient of ours, oh, I loved this man dearly, was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 85. He was absolutely terrified. His blood pressure elevated. He was put on blood thinners and blood pressure medication.

Guess what he died of? A brain hemmorhage. That's right. He was so stress out, that he popped a blood vessel and bled out. Something I predicted to my husband. Even after comforting words and urging him that the cancer was not a death sentence, he could not be calmed. He was frightened to death.

What is so crazy, is this guy was healthy and completely lucid. He drove. He was living a great life. He should have died at 100 and at the time of his death, the coroner would have said: Cause of death--heart failure. Incidental finding: prostate cancer.

So what should be done? Stop screening guys for prostate cancer after age 80. If they have problems with urinating--if the symptoms drive them crazy, then they can get tested. Otherwise leave the guys alone!

P.S. Can I be cynical for a moment and note that "watchful waiting" does not pay the bills? Guess how much a prostatectomy costs?

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