Prostate Cancer: Progress in Detection and Treatment

Until recently, prostate cancer was considered by many to be a disease of “old men” only.  As a result, science for the detection and treatment of prostate cancer was lagging decades behind that of breast cancer.  In fact, it was commonly believed that if doctors performed a biopsy on the prostate of all men eighty years old or older, at the time of their death from non-prostate related issues, we could expect to find evidence of undetected prostate cancer in close to 100% of those patients.

The discovery and use of the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) led to detection of prostate cancer in younger men. The PSA test was fairly inexact and could become elevated as a result of any of several non-cancerous conditions. It led to numerous biopsies in men who had no clinical findings consistent with prostate cancer but who turned out to have the disease. These young men were treated aggressively, and at times the treatment was as bad if not worse than the disease. The problem was that when we found a prostate cancer we had no idea if it was destined to be aggressive or whether it was going to lie quietly and be indolent for decades.

Different treatment strategies emerged in Europe and the United States.  In Europe the PCA3 test was employed to detect genetic markers of men with elevated PSA’s and normal prostate gland examination who should be biopsied. This test is now gaining acceptance in the USA.

In a February 2011 article published in Nature magazine, researchers announced that they had found a genetic test for prostate cancer  samples that predicted whether the disease would be aggressive (and spread) or not. This new test, coupled with the existing Gleason scoring system, accurately predicted who needed to be treated aggressively and who could be watched instead. A commercial version of this genetic test should be available within two years.  At the same time, another article showed that in patients with minimal prostate cancerous disease, it is safe to observe them rather than aggressively operate on them immediately.

Health experts recommend all men 40 and over have a digital rectal exam on an annual basis. The decision to obtain a PSA is based on history, family history of prostate disease and clinical exam of the prostate. There are no current recommendations by the US Public Health Task Force on Preventive care for screening for prostate cancer with a PSA level. Despite this, I generally obtain a PSA annually on men over 50 after explaining to them the pros and cons of following the current guidelines.

If the new genetic test to predict prostate cancer aggressiveness turns out to be as accurate as suspected, we are finally on the road to being able to treat those who need aggressive treatment and spare others who don’t.

Why Narcotics Are Not Kept At My Practice

From time to time I’ll have a patient that needs to be treated with narcotics.  It’s not uncommon for the patient to be surprised when they learn that we do not keep narcotics, injectable or oral, in our office.

Florida law makes it extremely difficult to keep, maintain and administer narcotics for pain.  If a practice keeps narcotics in their office under lock and key as required by law, the paper work is long and tedious, the threat of theft is large and the reward monetarily is quite small.

Furthermore, there is a certain level of risk associated with keeping narcotics.  During my 30 year medical career, I have been robbed at knifepoint by someone seeking narcotics and my family has been stalked by a crazed drug seeking patient which only stopped when the police became involved.

When a patient has pain requiring injections we will provide a prescription for the patient to obtain the medication at a local pharmacy. We will gladly administer the medication for the patient in the office or at home and train them and their caregivers how to administer the medicine yourself.   On occasion, we have referred patients to the hospital Emergency Department when necessary and met them there for the purposes of providing injectable narcotics for pain relief or control.

Unfortunately, keeping narcotics at our office has become far too dangerous and complicated in today’s world.  We appreciate your understanding of this matter and we will do everything possible to effectively treat our pain patients and make the treatment as convenient as possible.

Cold and Flu Season: Prevention / Treatment

Cold (upper respiratory viral infection) and flu season is upon us again   What can you do to prevent a cold?

Studies have shown that increasing your vitamin C intake before developing cold symptoms greatly helps. In the American College of Physicians Guide to Alternative and Complimentary Medicine they cite a series of studies that looked at highly stressed athletic and military personnel residing in cramped quarters in extremely challenging and cold environments. Those who made sure to ingest extra vitamin C by various routes including increasing their fresh fruits and vegetables had fewer colds which were less intense.

Recent studies published in the British Medical Journal and performed at Appalachian State University showed that brisk exercise for thirty minutes a day at least five days a week prevented colds. By mobilizing your immune cells during exercise you tend to stay healthier longer.  Previous studies in pregnant women and older adults confirm the cold fighting benefits of regular exercise.

The flu shot works to prevent influenza.  It is safe, inexpensive and readily available this year.  This year’s seasonal influenza vaccine contains protection against traditional influenza strains and the H1N1 virus. It is recommended in all adults.

If you catch a cold we suggest you try common sense, rest when fatigued, consume extra fluids especially warm fluids such as chicken soup and give thought to trying zinc lozenges.  Zinc lozenges taken every two hours may prevent viral particles from attaching to cell surfaces in mouth, throat and nose and cut the intensity and duration of your infection.  Taking the zinc tablet every two hours for the first twenty four hours is apparently the key.