Nubbins On Your Nuts: What You Should Know About Tunica Cysts

February 9, 2019

Andrew Siegel MD    2/9/2019

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Image of testes and its tunics (covering sheaths) from Gray’s Anatomy (public domain)

The tunica albuginea is the dense fibrous sheath that surrounds, covers and protects the delicate contents of each testicle. The tunica albuginea is surrounded by a second layer, the tunica vaginalis. Benign cystic masses may arise from either tunic.

Cysts originating from the tunica albuginea are the most common benign masses that originate external to the testicle. They are small, firm, irregular, plaque-like nubbins located on the surface of the testes ranging from 2-5 mm in size.  They are often described as feeling like a “grain of rice.” They are most often found  on the upper front or upper side aspect of the testicle. In most cases they are minimally symptomatic and are discovered incidentally by the patient, who is typically around 40 years of age.

These cysts can cause a great deal of concern and worry because of the fear of testes cancer, but they are distinguished from testes cancer by being cystic (not solid) and on the outer surface of the testes as opposed to being within the testes.  Ultrasonography is the imaging study of choice for evaluating testicular masses and can differentiate cystic, benign masses from solid, malignant masses.

On ultrasound the tunica albuginea can be seen as a 2-layered echogenic (containing lots of echoes) structure surrounding the testicle and the cyst as a small, regular fluid-filled structure abutting the surface of the testicle (see below).  On occasion, a tunica cyst may calcify. Microscopically, they are seen to contain fluid and cellular debris.  Although these cysts can be surgically excised, it is only rarely necessary to do so because ultrasound can reliably confirm their benign diagnosis.

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Tunica albuginea cyst on ultrasound
       (cyst is black oval structure)

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

Dr. Siegel is the author of 5 books: FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

 and hot off the press is PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page 

 

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Prostate Cancer Screening Biomarkers: What You Need To Know

May 25, 2019

Andrew Siegel MD  5/25/19

Before we get to the main course, let’s begin with a little appetizer—some trivia about urology, the occupation of yours truly.  There are not many of us around; there are currently 12,700 practicing urologists in the USA, 1 for every 25,000 Americans.  90% of  are male and 10% are female. 57% of urologists are in private practice and the remainder are employed by hospitals or academic medical centers. 40% of urologists have a primary subspecialty, oncology (cancer) being the most common.

Although I have subspecialty training and board certification in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, I enjoy general urology, treating both male and female adults with a variety of conditions (voiding and sexual dysfunction, incontinence, pelvic organ relaxation, urological cancers, infections, kidney stones, bleeding, vasectomy, etc.), the balance between office and surgical practice and—most importantly– the fact that as urologists, we can help most patients improve their quality and quantity of life.  

 

Bi·o·mark·er

/ˈbīōˌmärkər/
noun
plural noun: biomarkers
  1. a measurable substance in an organism whose presence is indicative of some phenomenon such as disease, infection, or environmental exposure.

Prostate specific antigen (PSA) was the first prostate cancer biomarker, singularly responsible for revolutionizing the diagnosis and follow-up of prostate cancer. There are several new biomarkers that can help with the decision of whether or not to biopsy the prostate as well as to inform and support prostate cancer management decisions (active surveillance vs. active treatment, the specific means of treatment for early and localized cancer, and when to pursue androgen deprivation therapy).

Prostate health index (PHI): This is a compilation of several different PSA sub-types, including pro-PSA, free PSA and total PSA, into a single score. It can help discriminate between higher and lower grade disease. PHI score coupled with other factors including age, prostate volume, digital rectal examination (DRE) {abnormal DRE vs. normal DRE} and biopsy history (prior prostate biopsy vs. no prior prostate biopsy) are used to help determine the need for biopsy in a patient with suspected prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer antigen (PCA3) urine test: PCA3 is a specific type of RNA (ribonucleic acid) that is released in high levels by prostate cancer cells. Its expression is 60-100 times greater in prostate cancer cells than benign prostate cells, which makes this test much more specific for prostate cancer than PSA. The first ounce of urine voided immediately after prostate massage (a vigorous DRE with the intent of milking the prostate) is rich in prostatic fluid and cells and is collected and tested for the quantity of PCA3 genetic material present. Urinary levels of PCA3 are not affected by prostate enlargement or inflammation, as opposed to PSA levels. PCA3 > 25 is suspicious for prostate cancer.

4Kscore test:  4Kscore test measures blood levels of four different prostate-derived proteins: total PSA, free PSA, intact PSA and human kallikrein 2. Levels of these biomarkers are combined with the patient’s age, DRE, and history of prior biopsy. These factors are processed using an algorithm to calculate the risk of finding an aggressive prostate cancer (Gleason score 7 or higher) if a prostate biopsy were to be performed. The test can increase the accuracy of prostate cancer diagnosis, particularly in its most aggressive forms.  It cannot be used if a patient has had a DRE in the previous 4 days, nor can it be used if one has taken finasteride (Proscar) or dutasteride (Avodart) within the previous six months. Additionally, it cannot be used in patients who have undergone any procedure to treat symptomatic prostate enlargement or any invasive urologic procedure in the prior 6 months.

Apifiny test:  This test measures the immune response to prostate cancer, detecting autoantibody proteins in the blood that are produced against prostate cancer cells. It is a risk assessment tool that does not rely on PSA. A score of 1-100 is given: the higher the score, the greater the chance for the presence of prostate cancer.

Biomarker to confirm a negative (benign) biopsy:

ConfirmMDx:  Since a biopsy of the prostate samples only a small volume of the total prostate, it is possible to have benign biopsy results when in fact an underlying cancer was missed.  This particular assay is done on prostate tissue derived from a negative biopsy to help determine its accuracy. It quantitates the chemical status of certain genes to detect abnormal changes associated with the presence of prostate cancer. ConfirmMDx detects a “halo” associated with the presence of cancer at the DNA level, which may be detected in prostate cancer tissue despite a normal microscopic appearance. This test helps identify low risk men who may forego a repeat biopsy and high risk men who would benefit from a repeat biopsy.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

The content of this entry is excerpted from his new book, PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

4 small

Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

Prostate Cancer 20/20 on Apple iBooks

Dr. Siegel’s other books:

FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

 

Prostate MRI: What You Should Know

May 18, 2019

Andrew Siegel MD  5/18/2019

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a high-resolution test that is an important tool for prostate cancer diagnosis, targeting of biopsies, clinical staging, surgical planning, follow-up of prostate cancer patients managed with active surveillance and in the evaluation of recurrent prostate cancer following treatment. A shout-out to Dr. Robert Waxman, who provided the MRI images seen below. 

MRI uses a powerful magnet to enable viewing of the prostate gland and surrounding tissues in multiple planes of view with the advantage of not requiring radiation. The planes are axial (cross section), sagittal (the plane that divides the body into left and right) and coronal (a plane dividing the body into dorsal and ventral parts). The axial images are by far the most important images of the study. MRI identifies areas suspicious for cancer and enables “targeted” biopsies as opposed tosystematic” biopsies. Although useful in the diagnostic evaluation of any man who has a suspicion of prostate cancer, it is particularly beneficial in men who have had previous benign prostate biopsies who have persistent PSA elevations or accelerations.

MRI is a valuable part of the diagnostic armamentarium, increasing the detection rate of clinically significant (Gleason score 7 or higher) prostate cancers, while reducing the detection rate of clinically insignificant (Gleason score 6) cancers. MRI provides anatomical details about the neuro-vascular (nerve and blood vessel) bundles, urinary bladder, seminal vesicles, pelvic lymph nodes, bowel and pelvic bones and beneficial staging information on tumor extension beyond the prostate capsule, pelvic lymph node enlargement and seminal vesicle involvement.

Prostate MRI is performed at specialty imaging centers.  Preparation involves a Fleet enema to clear gas from the rectum that can generate artifacts on the MRI images making interpretation suboptimal.  A coil placed in the rectum (endo-rectal coil) is no longer necessary as it was in prior versions of MRI. The study is done before and after the injection of about 20 cc of intravenous contrast to optimize the results.

Note: MRI cannot be performed under the following circumstances: pacemaker, recent coronary artery stent placement, ferromagnetic brain aneurysm clips and the presence of metal near the spinal cord, e.g., bullet fragments.

Refinements in MRI involve diffusion and perfusion studies. Diffusion is the movement of water into tissues; because prostate cancer cells are more tightly packed than normal cells, diffusion is often restricted with prostate cancers. Perfusion is the circulation of blood to tissues; because prostate cancers are hyper-vascular (increased blood supply), with the injection of the intravenous contrast there is increased perfusion with prostate cancers.

The value of prostate MRI is highly operator-dependent and requires both a quality study and interpretation by a skilled and experienced radiologist. Sophisticated software performs image analysis, assisting radiologists in interpreting and scoring MRI results. A validated scoring system known as PI-RADS (Prostate Imaging Reporting and Data System) is used. This scoring system helps urologists make decisions about whether to biopsy the prostate and, if so, how to optimize the biopsy.

PI-RADS      

I     most probably benign (clinically significant cancer highly unlikely)

II    probably benign (clinically significant cancer unlikely)

III   indeterminate (clinically significant cancer equivocal) — 20% chance

IV   probably cancer (clinically significant cancer likely) — 50% chance

V   most probably cancer (clinically significant cancer highly likely) —75% chance

Of note, the IV and V groups are the same, differentiated only by the size of the suspicious region. In the IV group the abnormality is < 1.5 cm; in the V group the abnormality is > than 1.5 cm in diameter.

Now let’s play radiologist.  Can you identify the suspicious regions in the following two images?  There is a magnified view of the abnormal sites at the end of this entry.  Radiology clue: when you view images, always be on the look out for asymmetries between the left and right.

MRI1

Patient 1 with a PIRADS-5 lesion

 

MRI2

Patient 2 with a PIRADS-5 lesion with mass effect on the rectum and likely extra-capsular extension

MRI is by no means a perfect test, as clinically significant cancers (particularly small ones) are not always apparent on MRI, and PIRADS-4 and PIRADS-5 lesions when biopsied are not always found to contain clinically significant cancers. An additional concern is its expense.  Some urologists believe in obtaining a prostate MRI on all patients prior to performing a prostate biopsy, whereas others reserve MRI for patients with a previous negative biopsy in the face of a rising PSA. In the former setting, a biopsy remains the only definitive means of assessment regardless of the PIRADS score, one of the key utilities of the MRI being to help precisely target the biopsy.  However, in the latter setting, when the MRI reading is PIRADS-1 or PIRADS-2, a repeat biopsy can often be avoided.

Fact: PSA, DRE and MRI are all useful and informative tests, but the prostate biopsy (tissue sampling) is the only way to know for sure if one has prostate cancer.  In other words, whereas PSA, DRE and MRI are “suggestive,” the biopsy is “definitive.” “The buck stops here” applies to the biopsy.

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Magnified view of lesion of figure 1

 

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Magnified view of lesion of figure 2

Final note: Most insurance companies will readily cover the cost of a MRI study prior to doing a prostate biopsy.  The exception is CIGNA, which apparently cares more about its bottom line than the welfare of its insured patients.  I am constantly fighting with CIGNA-employed physicians in “peer-to-peer” conversations in an effort to get the company to pay for a pre-biopsy MRI.  My last such conversation was two days ago and sadly, I have never prevailed.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

The content of this entry is excerpted from his new book, PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

4 small

Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

Prostate Cancer 20/20 on Apple iBooks

Dr. Siegel’s other books:

FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

 

Laser Vaginal Therapy: Hope or Hype?

May 11, 2019

Andrew Siegel MD 5/11/2019

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

For better or for worse, we are living in the era of “vaginal rejuvenation.”  Procedures referred to as “designer vaginoplasty,” “re-virgination,” “reduction labioplasty,” “G-spot amplification,” “platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections,” “vaginal bleaching,” etc., have come into vogue as expensive plastic procedures advertised by some entrepreneurial physicians for cash-paying patients. Within the domain of “vaginal rejuvenation,” the last few years have also witnessed an explosion in the availability of office-based vaginal laser therapies for a variety of conditions, including vaginal dryness and other symptoms of menopause, vaginal (laxity) looseness, and stress urinary incontinence.

Vagina collage public domain

Vaginal Collage (public domain)

LASER = light amplification and stimulated emission of radiation

The theorized mechanism of action of laser therapy is collagen and elastin fiber remodeling, growth of new collagen, blood vessel ingrowth and growth factor infiltration.  The goal is the restoration of vaginal elasticity, suppleness and moistness that often decline after menopause with the cessation of estrogen production, a hormone that contributes vitally to female genital health.

In the USA, these procedures are costly and not covered by insurance. They are most commonly performed by gynecologists, but any MD with a license or their nurse practitioners or physician assistants can legally perform these laser procedures.  Lasers are expensive to purchase or lease and private physicians charge an “arm and a leg” to treat the vagina, since these procedures are outside the domain of health insurance.

The problem is the lack of scientific evidence regarding effectiveness of laser procedures as well as the possibility of serious adverse effects (including itching, burning, redness, scarring, swelling, pain during intercourse and chronic pain). In July of 2018, the FDA issued a warning against the use of energy-based devices– including lasers and radio-frequency devices– for vaginal rejuvenation and vaginal cosmetic procedures.

The bottom line is that although there is some evidence of effectiveness based upon observational studies, there exists a strong need for long-term, large, randomized and placebo-controlled clinical trials to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of these vaginal laser procedures before they can be recommended.

As a urologist, I often use lasers for fragmenting stones in the urinary tract (bladder, ureters and kidneys) and for creating a channel through an obstructed prostate gland. These are legitimate and bonafide uses of lasers in medicine. My urology group does not utilize vaginal laser therapy (although its use was considered, but voted down after considerable research).  I do have some patients who have had vaginal laser procedures outside of my practice to manage symptoms of menopause, vaginal laxity and stress urinary incontinence. Anecdotally, I have one patient who speaks very highly of the fractional laser therapy she received for post-menopausal dryness, which seemed to improve her situation.

With respect to vaginal laxity and stress urinary incontinence, my feeling is that as fabulous and high-tech as lasers are, in these two cases lasers are a solution in search of a problem and are ineffective options for the management of these problems. If a woman truly has vaginal laxity–often accompanied by pelvic organ prolapse–or significant stress urinary incontinence she will often benefit from surgical therapy if unresponsive to conservative treatments.  Furthermore, my advice is to stay away from vaginal bleaching, G-spot amplification, PRP injections, and re-virgination insanity.  Labiaplasty is a reasonable consideration if a woman has outsized labia that get in the way of life’s activities, but otherwise my advice is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and pursue pelvic floor exercises as a means of vaginal fitness.

Bottom Line:  Laser Vaginal Therapy: Mostly hype with a bit of hope.  As always, caveat emptor (buyer beware)!

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

Dr. Siegel’s newest book, PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

Prostate Cancer 20/20 on Apple iBooks

Dr. Siegel’s other books:

FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

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Refinements and Nuances of PSA Testing: What You Need to Know

May 4, 2019

Andrew Siegel MD  5/4/19

mannequin pis

Above photo is of the famous Mannekin Pis statue in Brussels

Last week’s entry discussed the basics of PSA—”PSA 101” if you will. Today is the “300-level  course” that reviews refinements in PSA testing that make the test more valuable, meaningful and predictive.  

What are some of the refinements and nuances in PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) testing?

PSA Velocity:  Comparing one’s PSA values year-to-year is most informative. Generally, PSA will increase by only a small increment, reflecting benign prostate growth associated with the aging process. If PSA accelerates faster than anticipated—a condition known as accelerated PSA velocity—further evaluation is indicated.  The bottom line is that an isolated PSA (out of context) is much less meaningful than a series of one’s PSAs over time.

Please note: Many labs use a PSA of 4.0 as a cutoff for abnormal, so it is possible that one can be falsely lulled into the impression that their PSA is normal.  For example, if one’s PSA is 1.0 and a year later it is 3.0, it is still considered a “normal” PSA (because it is less than 4.0) even though it has tripled (highly suspicious for a problem) and mandates further investigation.  So, it is worthwhile knowing your actual PSA level, similar to being aware of your cholesterol level.

PSA Density:  The larger the prostate, the more PSA that is manufactured.  PSA density (PSA divided by prostate volume) is the PSA level corrected to prostate size. The prostate volume can be determined by imaging studies including ultrasound or MRI.  PSA elevations are less worrisome under the circumstance of an enlarged prostate.

A PSA density > 0.15 is concerning for prostate cancer.

Free PSA:  PSA circulates in the blood in two forms: a “free” form in which the PSA is unbound, and a “complex” PSA in which the PSA is bound to a protein. The free PSA/total PSA ratio can offer a predictive value (similar to how HDL cholesterol/total cholesterol can be helpful in a person with an elevated cholesterol level). The higher the free to total PSA ratio, the greater the chance that benign enlargement of the prostate is the underlying source of the PSA elevation.

In men with a PSA ranging from 4-10, the probability of cancer is:

9-16% if the free/total PSA ratio is greater than 25%

18-30% if the ratio is 19-25%

27-41% if the ratio is 11-18% 

49-65% if the ratio is less than 10%

4Kscore test: The 4Kscore Test is a refinement that measures the blood content of four different prostate-derived proteins: total PSA, free PSA, intact PSA and human kallikrein 2. Levels of these biomarkers are combined with a patient’s age, DRE (digital rectal examination) status (abnormal DRE vs. normal DRE), and history of prior biopsy status (prior prostate biopsy vs. no prior prostate biopsy). These factors are processed using an algorithm to calculate the risk of finding a Gleason score 7 or higher (aggressive) prostate cancer if a prostate biopsy were to be performed. The test can increase the accuracy of prostate cancer diagnosis, particularly in its most aggressive forms. (It cannot be used if a patient has received a DRE in the previous 4 days, nor can it be used if one has been on Avodart (dutasteride) or Proscar (finasteride) within the previous six months. Additionally, it cannot be used in patients that have within the previous six months undergone any procedure to treat symptomatic prostate enlargement or any invasive urologic procedure that may be associated with a PSA elevation.)

How is PSA used in men diagnosed with and treated for prostate cancer?

PSA is unquestionably the best marker to gauge prostate cancer status in the follow-up of men who have been treated for prostate cancer by any means or in those men who are on active surveillance.

After surgical removal of the prostate gland for cancer the PSA should be undetectable and after radiation therapy the PSA should decline substantially to a reading of usually less than 1.0. Rising PSA levels after treatment may be the first sign of cancer recurrence.  Such a “biochemical” relapse typically precedes a “clinical” relapse by months or years.  If a man on active surveillance has consecutive substantial elevations in PSA level, it signals the possibility of more aggressive disease that may require active intervention.

Is PSA the definitive test for prostate cancer?

No! PSA is the definitive test for monitoring prostate cancer and a good, but imperfect screening test since the PSA can be elevated in the absence of prostate cancer and low in the presence of prostate cancer.

An elevated or accelerated PSA, abnormal digital rectal exam and suspicious MRI are all helpful tests, but remember that the definitive and conclusive test for prostate cancer is the ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy.

“The buck stops here” with prostate biopsy, the conclusive test for prostate cancer.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

The content of this entry is excerpted from his new book, PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

4 small

Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

Prostate Cancer 20/20 on Apple iBooks

Dr. Siegel’s other books:

FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

 

PSA is “Worthless”: MORE FAKE NEWS!

April 27, 2019

Andrew Siegel MD  4/27/19

When I use the acronym PSA, I do not refer to “Public Service Announcement,” nor “Pacific Southwest Airlines,” nor “Polar Surface Area.”  In the context of this entry, PSA is Prostate Specific Antigen, an important blood test that helps screen for prostate cancer and monitor prostate cancer in those diagnosed with the disease.

What is PSA?

PSA is a chemical produced by the prostate gland, that functions to liquefy semen following ejaculation, aiding the transit of sperm to the egg.  A small amount of PSA filters from the prostate into the blood circulation and can be measured by a simple blood test. In general, the larger the prostate size, the higher the PSA level, since larger prostates produce more PSA. As a man ages, his PSA rises based upon the typical enlarging prostate that occurs with growing older.

How is PSA used to screen for prostate cancer?

Using PSA testing, about 90% of men have a normal PSA.  Of the 10% of men with an elevated PSA, 30% or so will have prostate cancer. In a recent study of 350,000 men with an average age of 55, median PSA was 1.0. Those with a PSA < 1.5 had a 0.5% risk of developing prostate cancer, those between 1.5-4.0 had about an 8% risk, and those > 4.0 had greater than a 10% risk.

Although it is an imperfect screening test, PSA remains the best tool currently available for detecting prostate cancer.  It should not be thought of as a stand-alone test, but rather as part of a comprehensive approach to early prostate cancer detection.  Baseline PSA testing for men in their 40s is useful for predicting the future potential for prostate cancer. The most informative use of PSA screening is when it is obtained serially, with comparison on a year-to-year basis providing much more meaningful information than a single, out-of-context PSA.

I have practiced urology in both the pre-PSA and the post-PSA era. In my early career (pre-PSA era), it was not uncommon to be called to the emergency room to consult on men who could not urinate (a condition known as urinary retention), who on digital rectal exam were found to have rock-hard prostate glands and imaging studies that showed diffuse spread of prostate cancer to their bones—metastatic prostate cancer with a grim prognosisFortunately, in the current era, that scenario occurs extremely infrequently because of PSA screening. These days, most men who present with metastatic disease are those who have not had PSA screening as part of their annual physical exams.

Is there any truth that the PSA test is worthless?

A major backlash against screening occurred a few years ago with the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) grade “D” recommendation against PSA screening and their call for total abandonment of the test. This organization counseled against the use of PSA testing in healthy men, postulating that the test does not save lives and leads to more tests and treatments that needlessly cause pain, incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Of note, there was not a single urologist on the committee. The same organization had previously advised that women in their 40s not undergo routine mammography, setting off another blaze of controversy. Uncertainty in the lay press prompted both patients and physicians to question PSA testing and recommendations for prostate biopsy.

Is there really any harm in screening?  Although there are potential side effects from prostate biopsy (although they are few and far between) and there certainly are potential side effects with treatment, there are no side effects from drawing a small amount of blood. The bottom line is that when interpreted appropriately, the PSA test provides valuable information in the diagnosis, pre-treatment staging, risk assessment and monitoring of prostate cancer patients. Marginalizing this important test does a great disservice to patients who may benefit from early prostate cancer detection. I give the USPSTF an “F” for their ill-advised recommendation, the aftermath of which is, sadly, a spike of men with higher PSA levels and more aggressive and advanced prostate cancer.

IMG_0556

Since the early 1990s, prostate cancer mortality has declined, but the aftermath of the USPSTF recommendation was a spike in prostate cancer death rates

 

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The USPSTF gets the Horse’s Ass award for disservice to the well- being of mankind

Why bother screening for prostate cancer?

Excluding skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men (1 in 9 lifetime risk), accounting for one-quarter of newly diagnosed cancers in males.  Prostate cancer causes absolutely no symptoms in its earliest stages and the diagnosis is made by prostate biopsy done on the basis of abnormalities in PSA levels and/or digital rectal examination. An elevated or accelerated PSA that leads to prostate biopsy and a cancer diagnosis most often detects prostate cancer in its earliest and most curable state. Early and timely intervention for those men with aggressive cancer results in high cure rates and avoids the potential for cancer progression and consequences that include painful cancer spread and death.

The upside of screening is the detection of potentially aggressive prostate cancers that can be treated and cured. The downside is the over-detection of unaggressive prostate cancers that may never prove to be problematic, but may result in unnecessary treatment with adverse consequences. The downside of not screening is the under-detection of aggressive prostate cancers, with adverse consequences from necessary treatment not being given.

Why is PSA elevated in the presence of prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer cells do not make more PSA than normal prostate cells. The elevated PSA occurs because of a disruption of the cellular structure of the prostate cells. The loss of this structural barrier allows accelerated seepage of PSA from the prostate into the blood circulation.

Does an elevated PSA always mean one has prostate cancer?

There is no letter C (for cancer) in PSA.  Not all PSA elevations imply the presence of prostate cancer.  PSA is prostate organ-specific but not prostate cancer-specific. Other processes aside from cancer can cause enhanced seepage of PSA from disrupted prostate cells. These include prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, an enlargement of the prostate gland), prostate manipulation (e.g., a vigorous prostate examination, prostate biopsy, prolonged bike ride, ejaculation, etc.).

Why is PSA an imperfect screening test?

PSA screening is imperfect because of false negatives (presence of prostate cancer in men with low PSA) and false positives (absence of prostate cancer in men with high PSA). Despite its limitations, PSA testing has substantially reduced both the incidence of metastatic disease and the death rate from prostate cancer.

Who should be screened for prostate cancer?

Men age 40 and older who have a life expectancy of 10 years or greater are excellent candidates for PSA screening. Most urologists do not believe in screening or treating men who have a life expectancy of less than 10 years. This is because prostate cancer rarely causes death in the first decade after diagnosis and other competing medical issues often will do so before the prostate cancer has a chance to.  Prostate cancer is generally a slow-growing process and early detection and treatment is directed at extending life well beyond the decade following diagnosis.

The age at which to stop screening needs to be individualized, since “functional” age trumps “chronological” age and there are men 75 years old and older who are in phenomenal shape, have a greater than 10-year life expectancy and should be offered screening. This population of older men may certainly benefit from the early diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer that has the potential to destroy quantity and quality of life. However, if a man is elderly and has medical issues and a life expectancy of less than 10 years, there is little sense in screening. Another important factor is individual preference since the decision to screen should be a collaborative decision between patient and physician.

Bottom Line: PSA screening detects prostate cancer in its earliest and most curable stages, before it has a chance to spread and potentially become incurable.  PSA screening has unequivocally reduced metastases and prostate cancer death and it is recommended that it be obtained annually starting at age 40 in men who have a greater than a 10-year life expectancy.  PSA testing in men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer provides valuable information about pre-treatment staging, risk assessment and monitoring after treatment.  Although PSA has many shortcomings, when used intelligently and appropriately, it will continue to save lives.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

The content of this entry is excerpted from his new book, PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

4 small

Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

Prostate Cancer 20/20 on Apple iBooks

Dr. Siegel’s other books:

FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

 

IT’S ALL MESHED UP: FDA Decision on Pelvic Prolapse Repair Mesh Sets Back Women’s Health

April 20, 2019

Andrew Siegel MD 4/20/19

This past Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered the manufacturers of all remaining surgical mesh products for trans-vaginal repair of pelvic organ prolapse (Boston Scientific and Coloplast) to stop selling and distributing their products in the USA, effective immediately. According to the FDA, the manufacturers in their premarket applications failed to provide reasonable assurance that the benefits of the products outweighed their risks, compared with trans-vaginal surgical tissue repair without mesh. The inaccessibility of these products will severely hamper treatment options for many women with pelvic organ prolapse and is a genuine disservice to the female population and a blow to women’s health, which has otherwise made major strides forward in the last few decades.

Picture1

Boston Scientific Uphold Lite Mesh

 

Clearly, the issue is NOT the mesh, which is a synthetic material—polypropylene—that has been used safely and effectively for years as a suture material and for virtually all hernia repairs. Rather, the issues are threefold—inappropriate manufacturing company marketing, inexperienced surgeon implanters, and our “ambulance-chasing” financially-motivated legal culture.

For years, the manufacturers of these mesh products—many of which ultimately removed themselves from the mesh business—assertively marketed these mesh products in “weekend” courses to surgeons (who were not surgically trained to perform these procedures).  These inexperienced physicians then became avid mesh implanters and often engendered complications in the patients whom they implanted, setting the scene for law firms to aggressively advertise and seek clients for litigation.

Sadly, there is excellent scientific data to support the safety and efficacy of vaginal mesh when done in properly selected patients by skilled pelvic surgeons. Millions of such vaginal mesh surgeries have been performed successfully with minimal complications by pelvic surgeons with training in a subspecialty of urology and gynecology—female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. This requires several years of specialty fellowship training after completion of urology or gynecology residency and a second board examination in addition to board certification in urology or gynecology, thus most in this subspecialty are dual board certified.

Why mesh in the first place?  Why use a synthetic material when native tissues can be used?  The answer lies in the nature of pelvic organ prolapse.  Analogous to a hernia, pelvic organ prolapse is a weakness in connective tissue support allowing a pelvic organ (often the bladder) to pooch down into the vagina and at times outside the vagina, causing an annoying bulge, pressure and often difficulties with urination. The mesh principle is using a structurally sound material instead of a patient’s defective connective tissues (that has already failed) to rebuild support. If a brick wall collapses because of structural issues, would one use the same bricks to rebuild the wall?  Clearly the answer is no.  This is why polypropylene mesh is used in the vast majority of hernia repairs: hardy structural support is needed to compensate for the native connective tissue defect.

The mesh principle: For anatomic defects, using weakened/defective native tissues for a structural repair often causes failures.

In the properly selected patient operated on with the appropriate surgical technique by the experienced surgeon, the results of vaginal mesh repairs have been extraordinarily gratifying and nothing short of a paradigm shift from the native tissue repair era.  This procedure passes muster and the “MDSW” test—meaning I would readily encourage my mother, daughter, sister or wife to undergo the procedure if the situation called for it.

When performed by a skilled pelvic surgeon, the likelihood of cure or vast improvement is very high.   Meshes are strong, supple and durable and the procedure itself is relatively simple, minimally-invasive and amenable to doing on an outpatient basis.  When patients are seen several years after a mesh repair, their pelvic exams typically reveal restored anatomy with remarkable preservation of vaginal length, axis, caliber and depth.

Meshes act as a scaffold for tissue in-growth and ultimately should become fully incorporated by the body.  I think of the meshes in a similar way to backyard chain-link fences that have in-growth of ivy.  Meshes examined microscopically years after implantation demonstrate a dense growth of blood vessels and collagen in and around the mesh.

When mesh is used for bladder repair, there is rarely any need for trimming of the vaginal wall, which maintains vaginal dimensions as opposed to the native tissue repairs, which often demand some trimming of vaginal wall with alteration of vaginal anatomy.  Another advantage of the mesh repair is that if there is some uterine prolapse accompanying the dropped bladder, the base of the mesh can be anchored to the cervix and thus provide support to the uterus as well as the bladder, potentially avoiding a hysterectomy.

The bottom line is that mesh repairs for pelvic organ prolapse have been revolutionary in terms of the quality and longevity of results—a true game-changer.  They represent a dramatic evolution in the field of female urology and urological gynecology, offering a vast improvement in comparison to the pre-mesh era.

That said, they are not without complications, but the complication rates should be reasonably low under the circumstances of proper patient selection, a skilled and experienced surgeon performing the procedure, proper surgical technique, and proper patient preparation. Three factors are integral to proper mesh integration: mesh factors, patient factors and surgeon factors.

The gold standard mesh is a piece of large-pored, elastic, monofilament polypropylene—any other synthetic can result in integration issues.  This is the standard for sling surgery as well, and time has proved this to be the best synthetic mesh.

Patient considerations are very important as risk factors for integration problems include the following: compromised or poor-quality vaginal tissues; diabetes; patients on steroids; immune-compromised patients; radiated tissues; and tobacco users.

Foremost, a well-trained, experienced surgeon should be the one doing the mesh implantation. It is sensible to check if your surgeon is specialized, and if not, at least has significant clinical experience doing mesh procedures. It is particularly important that the surgeon performing the mesh implant is capable of taking care of any of the small percentage of complications that may arise and are most often quite manageable.

Again, many of the problems that have occurred are not intrinsic to the mesh itself, but are potentially avoidable issues that have to do with either the surgical technique used to implant the mesh or to patient selection.  Rather than addressing these issues, the FDA has chosen to throw out the proverbial “baby with the bath water,” leaving in the wake of this short-sighted decision many female patients who will needlessly suffer.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

Andrew Siegel’s latest book: PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

4 small

Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

Prostate Cancer 20/20 on Apple iBooks

Dr. Siegel’s other books:

FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

 

 

 

 

Digital Rectal Exam of the Prostate: What You Need to Know

April 13, 2019

Andrew Siegel MD   4/13/19

A DRE is not a fancy and sophisticated high-tech “digital” as opposed to “analog” test.  “Digital” does not refer to a series of data represented by zeroes and ones, but rather to the digit that is used to perform the exam, typically the index finger of the examining physician.  “Rectal” is self-explanatory, referring to the anatomical structure entered to access the prostate gland.  

finger 2

The slender digit of yours truly

Caveat Emptor:  Always scrutinize the index finger of your urologist before allowing him or her to lay a finger on you…if they are sausage-like or have long nails… 

Please note well the following fact that is misunderstood by many patients:  Although the anus and rectum are the portals to the prostate, urologists are NOT colon and rectal doctors, nor do we do colonoscopies.  That is under the domain of the gastroenterologist or colo-rectal surgeon. Same portal, different organs!  Just because you have had a colonoscopy does not imply that you have had a proper DRE of the prostate. 

A DRE is a vital part of the male physical exam in which a gloved, lubricated finger is placed gently in the rectum in order to feel the outer, accessible surface of the prostate and gain valuable information about its health.  There are many positions in which to perform the test, but I prefer the standing, leaning forward with elbows on exam table position. Another position is the lying on your side, knees bent upwards towards chest position. Both are perfectly acceptable.

True story:  When I was on  the receiving end of my first DRE, I passed out and needed to be revived with an ammonia inhalant!  It has never happened again, but I do literally “see stars” during my annual exams, which are truly humbling.  My conclusion is that it is always better to give than receive. 

After age 40, an annual DRE is highly recommended. Although it is not a particularly pleasant examination, it is brief and not painful. Urologists do not relish doing this exam any more than patients desire receiving it, but it provides essential information that cannot be derived by any other means. If the prostate has an abnormal consistency, a hardness, lump, bump, or simply feels uneven and asymmetrical, it may be a sign of prostate cancer.  Prostate cancer most commonly originates in the peripheral zone, that which is accessed via DRE.

Digital Rectal Exam

Illustration above from PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families, written by yours truly

When teaching medical students, we often use hand anatomy to explain what the prostate feels like under different circumstances.  Turn your hand so that the palm is up and make a fist. The normal prostate feels like the spongy, muscular, fleshy tissue at the base of the thumb, whereas cancer feels hard, like the knuckle of the thumb.

DRE in conjunction with the PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test is the best means of screening for prostate cancer. Detection rates for prostate cancer are highest when using both tests, followed by PSA alone, followed by DRE alone.

The pathological features of prostate cancers detected on an abnormal DRE are, in general, less favorable than those of cancers detected by a PSA elevation. In other words, if the cancer can be felt, we tend to worry about it more than if it cannot be felt, as it is often at a more advanced stage.

Fact: The PSA blood test is NOT a substitute for the DRE. Both tests provide valuable and complementary information about your prostate health.

Bottom Line:  This simple test can be life-saving, so please “man up” and endure the momentary unpleasantness.  Remember that prostate cancer is the number 1 malignancy in men (aside from skin cancer) and cancers can be discovered on the basis of an abnormal DRE, even in the face of normal PSA. 

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

The content of this entry is excerpted from his new book, PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

4 small

Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

Prostate Cancer 20/20 on Apple iBooks

Dr. Siegel’s other books:

FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

 

Reduce Your Risk For Prostate Cancer

April 6, 2019

Andrew Siegel MD  4/6/19

baseball-players

(Thank you, PublicDomainPictures.net for image above)

If you don’t want to read further, one simple thought to remember: You likely know what to do to maintain cardiac health: HEART-HEALTHY IS PROSTATE HEALTHY 

One of nine men in the USA will develop prostate cancer, the most common male malignancy (aside from skin cancer). On a baseball field, that’s one of the nine players on the field.  That’s scary common!

It would be awesome if the disease was preventable and would certainly lighten our urological work load. Although we are not there yet, we have become wiser and more enlightened about the means of decreasing chances of developing prostate cancer and also about earlier detection. 

The risk factors for the prostate cancer are aging, genetics, race and lifestyle.  The first three factors are beyond one’s control, but lifestyle is a modifiable risk factor. A healthy lifestyle, including a wholesome and nutritious diet, weight management, regular exercise and the avoidance of tobacco and excessive alcohol, can lessen one’s risk for all chronic diseases–cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a host of cancers including prostate cancer.  It can also slow the growth and progression of prostate cancer in those afflicted.

Consider the fact that when Asian men—who have very low rates of prostate cancer—emigrate to western countries, their risk of prostate cancer increases over time. Clearly, a calorie-rich, nutrient-poor, Western diet and sedentary lifestyle is associated with a higher occurrence of many preventable problems, including prostate cancer.

Not uncommonly, pre-cancerous biopsies predate the onset of prostate cancer by many years. This, coupled with the increasing prevalence of prostate cancer with aging, suggests that the process of developing prostate cancer takes place over a prolonged period of time. It is estimated to take many years—often more than a decade—from the initial prostate cell mutation to the time when prostate cancer manifests itself with either a PSA (prostate specific antigen blood test) elevation or acceleration or an abnormal digital rectal examination. In theory, this provides the opportunity for preventive measures and intervention before the establishment of a cancer.

Ways to Reduce Risk for Prostate Cancer (and Detect it Early if it Occurs)                                  

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is correlated with an increased risk for prostate cancer occurrence, recurrence, progression and death.  Research suggests a link between a high-fat diet and prostate cancer. In men with prostate cancer, the odds of spread and death are increased 1.3-fold in men with a body mass index (BMI) of 30-35 and 1.5-fold in men with a BMI > 35. Furthermore, carrying the burden of extra weight increases the complication rate following prostate cancer treatments.
  • Eat real foods and avoid refined, over-processed, nutritionally empty foods; be moderate with animal fats and dairy consumption.   A healthy diet includes whole grains and plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits are rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Anti-oxidants help protect cells from injury caused by free radicals, which can incur cellular damage and potentially cause cancer. Fruits such as berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries), red cabbage and eggplant contain abundant anthocyanins, anti-oxidant pigments that give red, blue and purple plants their vibrant coloring. Tomatoes, tomato products and other red fruits and vegetables are rich in lycopenes, which are bright red carotenoid anti-oxidant pigments. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale and cabbage) and dark green leafy vegetables are fiber-rich and contain lutein, a carotenoid anti-oxidant pigment. A healthy diet includes protein sources incorporating fish rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines and trout), lean poultry and plant proteins (legumes, nuts and seeds). Processed and charred meats should be avoided.  Healthy vegetable-origin fats (olives, avocados, seeds and nuts) are preferred. An ideal diet that adheres to these general recommendations and is heart-healthy and prostate-healthy is the Mediterranean diet.
  • Avoid tobacco and excessive alcohol intake. Tobacco use is associated with more aggressive prostate cancers and a higher risk of prostate cancer progression, recurrence and death. Prostate cancer risk rises with heavy alcohol use, so moderation is recommended.
  • Stay active and exercise on a regular basis. Exercise lessens one’s risk of developing prostate cancer and decreases the death rate in those who do develop it. If stricken with prostate cancer, if one is physically fit, they will have an easier recovery from any intervention necessary to treat the disease.  Exercise positively influences energy metabolism, oxidative stress and the immune system. Pelvic floor muscle exercises benefit prostate health by increasing pelvic blood flow and decreasing the tone of the part of the nervous system stimulated by stress, which can aggravate urinary symptoms. Furthermore, pelvic floor muscle exercises strengthen the muscles surrounding the prostate so that if one develops prostate cancer and requires treatment, he will experience an expedited recovery of urinary control and sexual function.
  • Be proactive and see your doctor annually for a DRE (digital rectal exam) and a PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test. The PSA test does not replace the DRE—both need to be done!  Abnormal findings on these screening tests are what prompt further evaluation, including MRI and prostate biopsy, the definitive means of diagnosing prostate cancer. The most common scenario that ultimately leads to a diagnosis of prostate cancer is a PSA acceleration, an elevation above the expected incremental annual PSA rise based upon the aging process.

Important: An isolated PSA (out of context) is not particularly helpful. What is meaningful is comparing PSA on a year-to-year basis and observing for any acceleration above and beyond the expected annual incremental change associated with aging and benign prostate growth. Many labs use a PSA of 4.0 as a cutoff for abnormal, so it is possible that you can be falsely lulled into the impression that your PSA is normal.  For example, if your PSA is 1.0 and a year later it is 3.0, it is still considered a “normal” PSA even though it has tripled (highly suspicious for a problem) and mandates further investigation.

  • Finasteride (Proscar and Propeciaand dutasteride (Avodart), commonly used to treat benign prostate enlargement, reduce prostate cancer risk. These medications block the conversion of testosterone to its activated form that promotes prostate growth and male-pattern baldness. They help prevent prostate cancer, shrink the prostate, can improve lower urinary tract symptoms, help avoid prostate surgery, and grow hair on one’s scalp…a fountain of youth dispensed in a pill form!

Bottom Line:  When it comes to health, it is advantageous to be proactive instead of reactive, making every effort to prevent problems instead of having to fix them.  The cliché “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is relevant to prostate cancer as it is to other health issues including diabetes and heart disease. A healthy lifestyle, including a wholesome and nutritious diet, maintaining proper weight, exercising regularly and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol can lessen one’s risk of all chronic diseases, including prostate cancer.  Be proactive by getting a 15-second digital exam of the prostate and PSA blood test annually. 

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

The content of this entry is excerpted from his new book, PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

4 small

Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

Prostate Cancer 20/20 on Apple iBooks

Dr. Siegel’s other books:

FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

 

 

Man Boobs (“Gynecomastia”): What You Need to Know

March 30, 2019

Andrew Siegel MD  3/30/19

In females, the breasts (mammary glands) contribute to the alluring female form and allow ready access for the hungry infant, oddly an erogenous zone as well as a feeding zone. 

Breast_anatomy_normal_scheme

1. chest wall  2. pectoral muscles  3. glandular tissue (lobules)  4. nipple  5. areola  6. ducts  7. fatty tissue  8. skin

Image above: by Original author: Patrick J. Lynch. Reworked by Morgoth666 to add numbered legend arrows. – Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2676813  

But men, too, have breasts, areolas and nipples, yet male breasts lack glandular tissue (lobules) and have ducts that are blind-ending and incapable of lactation and providing nutrition to the infant.  This begs the question of why men even have breasts in the first place.  Furthermore, as desirable to the female form as breasts are, enlarged male breasts are viewed by most as unsightly and unattractive. 

So why do men have breasts?

Both genders start out initially as female.  In the absence of the male hormone testosterone (T), the fetus remains female (the default human model), and only in the presence of T does the fetus develops into a male.  However, breasts, areolas and nipples in their rudimentary form are present before T shapes cells into male organs. So, men have breasts, areolas and nipples because they were already present before maleness set in. Consider them nature’s evolutionary bonus!

What are sex hormones?

The main male sex hormone is T and the main female sex hormone estrogen (E).  However, males have some E and females have some T. T takes on two pathways in the body: Much of T is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the more potent and activated form. Some T is converted to E by virtue of the enzyme aromatase.

What are man boobs?

Man boobs—a.k.a. gynecomastia in medical speak—are a benign proliferation of glandular breast tissue. Gynecomastia is the most common breast condition in men. True gynecomastia—several centimeters or more of dense, firm, rubbery glandular tissue surrounding the areola—is distinguished from pseudo-gynecomastia, in which breast enlargement occurs due to fat deposition, without the presence of glandular tissue. Gynecomastia most commonly involves both breasts, although on occasion it can occur on just one side.

Under what circumstances do man breasts, which are supposed to be rudimentary and undeveloped, grow substantially?

Gynecomastia is seen in three distinct populations: newborns, adolescents and adults.  Breast tissue proliferation is present in the vast majority of newborns because of residual maternal female hormone E in the body, which is depleted in a matter of a few weeks, making the situation self-limited.  Gynecomastia is also seen during puberty in about 50% of adolescent boys, due to a delayed T surge relative to E activity, with spontaneous resolution in most.  However, at this sensitive age, the presence of man boobs on prominent display in the middle-school locker room negatively impacts self-image and self-esteem and can be devastating psychologically and emotionally.  The third population that develops man boobs is aging men, present to some extent in more than 50% after age 50, typically due to weight gain, decreased T levels, increased E levels, and altered T/E ratios.

Adolescent_with_Gynecomastia

Adolescent gynecomastia

Image above: David Andrew Copeland, Dr. Mordcai Blau http://www.gynecomastia-md.com [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

It is vital to make sure that male breast enlargement is not due to male breast cancer, which can occur on rare occasions. Cancer most often causes a hard mass within the breast tissue of one breast, sometimes with skin dimpling, and at times, lymph node enlargement –as opposed to gynecomastia that causes none of the aforementioned signs.

How is the extent of gynecomastia graded?

Grade I: minimal breast growth without drooping (ptosis in medical speak)

Grade II: moderate growth without drooping

Grade III: severe enlargement with drooping

Grade IV: severe enlargement with significant drooping

What is the main factor that underlies male breast growth? 

In both sexes, the main driving factor for breast development is hormonal—E activity and the ratio between E and T.  This explains normal female breast development at puberty (surge of E) as well as newborn, adolescent, and senior gynecomastia, which are associated with increased levels of E and altered ratio of E/T.

What medical issues give rise to gynecomastia?

There are 4 scenarios that can cause gynecomastia: conditions that cause excess E; conditions that cause low T; chronic medical conditions; and certain medications.

Thyroid disorders, e.g., hyperthyroidism, often increase sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG)—the protein that binds T and E—altering E/T ratio (since T is bound tighter than E), often giving rise to breast enlargement.  Certain tumors of the testes (Leydig, Sertoli cell and occasionally germ cell tumors that secrete human chorionic gonadotropin [HCG]) as well as some adrenal tumors can cause gynecomastia.  Carrying excessive weight and fat – particularly visceral abdominal fat (“beer belly”) – is a major risk factor for gynecomastia, as visceral fat contains an abundance of hormones including  aromatase, the enzyme that converts T to E. Men with large bellies consequently are often found to have low T and high E that can result in “emasculation,” with loss of sex drive, diminished erections, loss of penile length and the presence of man boobs.

Central_Obesity_008

Gynecomastia due to central obesity

Attribution: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Central_Obesity_008.jpg

Dysfunction of the testes, hypothalamus and pituitary can give rise to low T and promote gynecomastia.

Chronic medical conditions—including kidney disease and cirrhosis—often cause gynecomastia along with many other symptoms.

Numerous medications may give rise to male breast enlargement: HCG, estrogens, human growth hormone, anabolic steroids, finasteride and dutasteride, androgen deprivation therapy medications, spironolactone, cimetidine, proton pump inhibitors, digoxin, verapamil, alcohol, and opioids.

How is gynecomastia evaluated?

Visual inspection is used to determine the extent of enlargement and drooping and physical examination to ensure the absence of an underlying breast mass. It is important to do laboratory testing, including liver, kidney and thyroid function tests as well as total T, free T, SHBG, E, luteinizing hormone (LH), prolactin, HCG.

How is gynecomastia treated?

If a specific underlying medical condition or hormonal abnormality is identified, it needs to be addressed. If the gynecomastia is drug induced, the culprit medication needs to be stopped. If due to obesity, commonsense solutions are weight loss and exercise.

The goal of medical therapy is to modulate the E/T ratio and this can be done with the use of medications including clomiphene (selective estrogen receptor modulator—SERM); tamoxifen (SERM plus blocks action of E on breast tissue); danazol (androgen receptor agonist); anastrozole (aromatase enzyme inhibitor), depending on the specific circumstance.

At times, surgery may be the only solution for gynecomastia. In general, liposuction of excessive fatty and glandular tissue is used successfully for mild-moderate gynecomastia whereas liposuction with excision of excessive skin or surgical excision (reduction mammoplasty) is used for severe gynecomastia with drooping.

GynecomastiaFrontalAsymSevere

Before and after surgical treatment

Attribution of image above: JMZ1122 Dr. Mordcai Blau http://www.gynecomastia-md.com [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

Dr. Siegel’s newest book: PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

4 small

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Dr. Siegel is the author of 4 other books:

FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

Prostate Cancer 20/20 on Apple iBooks

 

 

 

Her Breasts and His Prostate: So Different, Yet So Similar!

March 23, 2019

Andrew Siegel MD   3/23/2019

Gender_differences_male_female

Thank you Wikipedia for image above

One would think that the mammary glands and prostate gland are worlds apart—separated by gender, geographical locale on the body, external vs. internal—but in reality, they have many more similarities than differences.

The female breasts and the male prostate are both sources of fascination, curiosity, and fear.  Surprisingly, they have much in common.  The breasts—with an aura of mystique and power—are situated in the chest superficial to the pectorals, contributing to the alluring female form and allowing ready access for the hungry infant, oddly an erogenous zone as well as a feeding zone. On the other hand, hidden deep in the pelvis at the crossroads of the male urinary and reproductive systems, the prostate is arguably man’s center of gravity.

The breasts and prostate both serve important “nutritional” roles. Each function to manufacture a milky white fluid; in the case of the breasts, the milk serving as nourishment for infants, and in the case of the prostate, the “milk” serving as sustenance for sperm cells.

Breasts are composed of glandular tissue that produces milk and ducts that transport the milk to the nipple. The remainder of the breast consists of fatty tissue.  The glandular tissue is sustained by the sex hormone estrogen and after menopause, when estrogen levels decline, the glandular tissue withers, with the fatty tissue predominating.

The prostate is made up of glandular tissue that produces prostate “milk” and ducts that empty into the urethra. At the time of ejaculation, the prostate fluid mixes with other reproductive secretions and sperm to form semen. The remainder of the prostate consists of fibro-muscular tissue. The glandular tissue is sustained by the sex hormone testosterone and after age 40 there is a slow and gradual increase in the size of the prostate gland because of glandular and fibro-muscular cell growth.

Access to the breasts as mammary feeding zones is via stimulation of the erect nipples through the act of nursing.  Access to prostate fluid is via stimulation of the erect penis, with the release of semen and its prostate fluid component at the time of ejaculation.

The breasts and prostate can be considered reproductive organs since they are vital to the nourishment of infants and sperm, respectively. At the same time, they are sexual organs. The breasts have a dual role that not only provide milk to infants, but also function as erogenous zones that attract the interest of the opposite sex and contribute positively to the sexual and thus, reproductive process.  Similarly, the prostate is both a reproductive and sexual organ, since sexual stimulation resulting in ejaculation is the means of accessing the prostate’s reproductive function.

Both breast and prostate are susceptible to similar disease processes including infection, inflammation and cancer. Congestion of the breast and prostate glands can result in a painful mastitis and prostatitis, respectively.  Excluding skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Breast and prostate tissue are dependent upon the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, respectively, and one mode of treatment for both breast cancer and prostate cancer is suppression of these hormones with medications. Both breast and prostate cancer incidence increase with aging. The median age of breast cancer at diagnosis is the early 60s and breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer death, after lung cancer. There are about 3 million breast cancer survivors in the USA. The median age of prostate cancer at diagnosis is the mid-late 60s and prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer death, after lung cancer. There are about 3 million prostate cancer survivors in the USA.

Both breast and prostate cancer are often detected during screening examinations before symptoms have developed. Breast cancer is often picked up via screening mammography, whereas prostate cancer is often identified via an elevated or accelerated PSA blood test.  Alternatively, breast and prostate cancer are detected when an abnormal lump is found on breast exam or digital rectal exam of the prostate, respectively.

Both breast and prostate cells may develop a non-invasive form of cancer known as carcinoma-in-situ—ductal carcinoma-in-situ (DCIS) and high-grade prostate intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN), respectively—non-invasive forms in which the abnormal cells have not grown beyond the layer of cells where they originated, often predating invasive cancer by years.

Family history is relevant to both breast and prostate cancer since there can be a genetic predisposition to both types and having a first degree relative with the disease will typically increase one’s risk.  Both women and men can inherit abnormal BRCA1 and BRCA2 tumor suppressor genes. Women who inherit BRCA1 and BRCA2 abnormal genes have about a 60% and 45% chance of developing breast cancer by age 70, respectively.  Men who inherit the BRCA1 abnormal gene have a slightly increased risk for prostate cancer; men who inherit the BRCA2 abnormal gene have about a seven-fold increased risk. BRCA1 mutations double the risk of metastatic prostate cancer and BRCA2 mutations increase the risk of metastatic prostate cancer by 4-6 times, with earlier onset and higher grade at diagnosis.

Imaging tests used in the diagnosis and evaluation of both breast and prostate cancers are similar with ultrasonography and MRI commonly used. Treatment modalities for both breast and prostate cancer share much in common with important roles for surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

 

….On the subjects of breasts, next week’s entry will cover “When men develop breasts.”

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

The content of this entry is excerpted from his new book, PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

4 small

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Dr. Siegel is the author of 4 other books:

FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

Prostate Cancer 20/20 on Apple iBooks