Posts Tagged ‘PSA’

6 Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Prostate Cancer

May 13, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  5/13/17

Prostate cancer is incredibly common– one man in seven will be diagnosed with it in his lifetime–with average age at diagnosis mid 60s. In 2015, an estimated 221,000 American men were diagnosed and 28,000 men died of the disease.  Although many with low-risk prostate cancer can be managed with careful observation and monitoring, those with moderate-risk and high-risk disease need to be managed more aggressively. With proper evaluation and treatment, only 3% of men will die of the disease. There are over 2.5 million prostate cancer survivors who are alive today.

Factoid: The #1 cause of death in men with prostate cancer is heart disease, as it is in the rest of the population. 

finger 2

This is the index finger of yours truly; observe the narrow digit, a most desirable feature for a urologist who examines many prostates in any given day.  The digital rectal exam of the prostate is a 15-second exam that is at most a bit uncomfortable, but vital in the screening process and certainly nothing to fear.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if prostate cancer could be prevented? Unfortunately, we are not there yet—but we do have an understanding of measures that can be pursued to help minimize your chances of developing prostate cancer.

Factoid: When Asian men–who have one of the lowest rates of prostate cancer– migrate to western countries, their risk of prostate cancer increases over time. Clearly, a coronary-clogging western diet high in animal fat and highly processed foods and low in fruits and vegetables is associated with a higher incidence of many preventable problems, including prostate cancer.

The presence of prostate cancer pre-cancerous lesions commonly seen on prostate biopsy—including high-grade prostate intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN) and atypical small acinar proliferation (ASAP)—many years before the onset of prostate cancer, coupled with the fact the prostate cancer increases in prevalence with aging, suggest that the process of developing prostate cancer takes place over a protracted period of time. It is estimated that it takes many years—often more than a decade—from the initial prostate cell mutation to the time when prostate cancer manifests with either a PSA elevation, an acceleration in PSA, or an abnormal digital rectal examination. In theory, this provides the opportunity for intervention before the establishment of a cancer.

Measures to Reduce Your Risk of Prostate Cancer

  1. Maintain a healthy weight since obesity has been correlated with an increased prostate cancer incidence.
  2. Consume a healthy diet with abundant fruits and vegetables (full of anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber) and real food, as opposed to processed and refined foods. Eat plenty of red vegetables and fruits including tomato products (rich in lycopene). Consume isoflavones (chickpeas, tofu, lentils, alfalfa sprouts, peanuts). Eat animal fats and dairy in moderation. Consume fatty fish containing omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, sardines, trout and mackerel.  Follow the advice of Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
  3. Avoid tobacco and excessive alcohol intake.
  4. Stay active and exercise on a regular basis. If you do develop prostate cancer, you will be in tip-top physical shape and will heal that much better from any intervention necessary to treat the prostate cancer.
  5. Get checked out! Be proactive by seeing your doctor annually for a digital rectal exam of the prostate and a PSA blood test. Abnormal findings on these screening tests are what prompt prostate biopsies, 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 Factoid: 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. 

  1. Certain medications reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 25% or so and may be used for those at high risk, including men with a strong family history of prostate cancer or those with pre-cancerous biopsies. These medications include Finasteride and Dutasteride, which are commonly used to treat benign prostate enlargement as well as male pattern hair loss. These medications lower the PSA by 50%, so any man taking this class of medication will need to double their PSA in order to approximate the actual PSA. If the PSA does not drop, or if it goes up while on this class of medication, it is suspicious for undiagnosed prostate cancer. By shrinking benign prostate growth, these medications also increase the ability of the digital rectal exam to detect an abnormality.

Bottom Line: A healthy lifestyle, including a wholesome and nutritious diet, maintaining proper weight, participating in an exercise program 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.  Prevention and early detection are the key elements to maintaining both quantity and quality of life. 

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as 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 that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health  http://www.TheKegelFix.com

 

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Prostate Cancer Update 2017: A More Nuanced Approach

December 3, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD  12/3/2016

prostate_cancerAttribution of above image: Blaus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It was not so long ago that all prostate cancers were lumped together, the thought being that a cancer is a cancer and best served by surgical removal. Consequently, with the best of intentions, some unnecessary surgical procedures were performed that at times resulted in impaired sexual function, poor urinary control, and unhappy patients.

Fortunately, urologists have become wiser, recognizing that individual prostate cancers are unique and that a nuanced approach is the key to proper management. Some prostate cancers are so unaggressive that no cure is necessary, whereas others are so aggressive that no treatment is curative. One thing is for certain—we have vastly improved our ability to predict which prostate cancers need to be actively treated and which can be watched.

The Challenge Of Diagnosing Prostate Cancer

The vast majority of patients who have undiagnosed prostate cancer have NO symptoms—no pain, no bleeding, no urinary issues, no anything. The possible diagnosis of prostate cancer is usually entertained under three circumstances: when there is an elevated PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test; when there is an accelerated PSA (when the change in PSA compared to the previous year is considered to be too high); and when there is an abnormal prostate DRE (digital rectal exam)—a bump, lump, hardness, asymmetry, etc. The bottom line is that if you don’t actively seek prostate cancer, you’re not going to find it. When prostate cancer does cause symptoms, it is generally a sign of locally advanced or advanced prostate cancer. Therein lies the importance of screening.

The Dilemma Of Screening For Prostate Cancer

The downside of screening is over-detection of low risk prostate cancer 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 cancer, with adverse consequences from necessary treatment not being given.

How Is The Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer Made?

When the PSA is elevated or accelerated and/or if there is an abnormal prostate DRE in a reasonably healthy man with good longevity prospects, an ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy is in order. Obtaining tissue for an exam by a pathologist is the definitive and conclusive test. The biopsy will reveal if cancer is present and its location, volume and grade (aggressiveness).

If prostate cancer is present, it is useful to determine the risk potential of the prostate cancer (“risk stratify”) by classifying it into categories based upon the following:

T (Tumor) category

T1c: cancer found because of PSA elevation or acceleration with a normal DRE

T2a: palpable (that which can be felt on DRE) cancer of half or less of one side

T2b: palpable cancer of more than half of one side

T2c: palpable cancer of both sides

T3a: cancer outside prostate, but sparing the seminal vesicles (reproductive structures that store semen)

T3b: cancer involving seminal vesicles

T4: regional spread of cancer to sphincter, rectum, bladder or pelvic sidewall

Gleason Score

Dr. Gleason devised a system that grades prostate cancer by observing the cellular architecture of prostate cancer cells under the microscope. He recognized that prostate cancer grade is the most reliable indicator of the potential for cancer growth and spread. His legacy, the grading system that bears his name, provides one of the best guides to prognosis and treatment. The pathologist assigns a separate numerical grade ranging from 3 – 5 to each of the two most predominant patterns of cancer cells. The sum of the two grades is the Gleason score. The Gleason score can predict the aggressiveness and behavior of the cancer, with higher scores having a worse prognosis than lower scores.

Grade Group 1 (Gleason score 3+3=6)

Grade Group 2 (Gleason score 3+4=7)

Grade Group 3 (Gleason score 4+3=7)

Grade Group 4 (Gleason score 4+4=8)

Grade Group 5 (Gleason score 4/5+4/5=9 or 10)

The significance of the Gleason Grade Group can be understood by examining the PSA five years after surgical removal of the prostate, correlating survival with the Grade Group. Ideally, after surgical removal of the prostate gland the PSA should be undetectable. A detectable and rising PSA after surgical removal is a sign of recurrent prostate cancer. The five-year rate of PSA remaining undetectable (biochemical recurrence-free progression) for surgical removal of the prostate in Grade Groups 1-5 is the following: 96%, 88%, 63%, 48%, and 26% respectively, indicating the importance of the grading system with respect to prognosis.

Number cores with cancer

Generally 12 – 14 biopsies are obtained, occasionally more. In general, the more cores that have cancer, the greater the volume of cancer and the greater the risk.

Percent of tumor involvement (PTI)

The percentage of any given biopsy core that has cancer present. In general, the greater the PTI, the greater the risk.

PSA

PSA is an excellent “tumor marker” for men with prostate cancer. In general, the higher the PSA, the greater the risk category.

PSA density

The relationship of PSA level to size of the prostate, determined by dividing the PSA by the volume of the prostate. The volume of the prostate is easily determined by ultrasound or by MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). A PSA density > 0.15 is greater risk.

 

Risk Stratification For Prostate Cancer

Based upon the aforementioned parameters, an individual case of prostate cancer can be assigned to one of five risk categories ranging from very low risk to very high risk. This risk assignment is helpful in predicting the future behavior of the prostate cancer and in the decision-making process regarding treatment.

Very Low Risk: T1c; Gleason score ≤ 6; fewer than 3 cores with cancer; less than 50% of cancer in each core; PSA density < 0.15

Low Risk: T1-T2a; Gleason score ≤ 6; PSA < 10

Intermediate Risk: T2b-T2c or Gleason score 7 or PSA 10-20

High Risk: T3a or Gleason score 8-10 or PSA > 20

Very High Risk: T3b-T4 or Gleason grade 5 as the predominant grade (the first of the two Gleason grades in the Gleason score) or > 4 cores Gleason score 8-10

 

Prostate Cancer Treatment

Prostate cancer treatment is based upon risk category and life expectancy and includes the following:

RALP (robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy): surgical removal of the prostate gland using robotic assistance

RT (radiation therapy): this can be used as definitive treatment or alternatively for recurrent disease after RALP or immediately following healing from RALP under the circumstance of adverse pathology report

ADT (androgen deprivation therapy): a means of decreasing testosterone level, since the male sex hormone testosterone stimulates prostate growth

AS (active surveillance): actively monitoring the disease with the expectation to intervene with curative therapy if the cancer progresses. This will involve periodic DRE, PSA, MRI, and repeat biopsy.

Observation: monitoring with the expectation of giving palliative therapy (relieving pain and alleviating other problems that may surface without dealing with the underlying cause)  if symptoms develop or a change in exam or PSA suggests that symptoms are imminent.

 

Prostate Cancer Treatment Based Upon Risk Stratification

Very Low Risk

< 10 year life expectancy: observation

10-20 years life expectancy: AS

> 20 years life expectancy: AS or RALP or RT

Low Risk

<10 years life expectancy: observation

>10 years life expectancy: AS or RALP or RT

Intermediate Risk

<10 years life expectancy: observation or RT + ADT 4-6 months

>10 years life expectancy: RALP or RT + ADT 4-6 months

High Risk

RALP or RT + ADT 2-3 years

Very High Risk:

T3b-T4: RT + ADT 2-3 years or RALP (in select patients) or ADT

Lymph node spread: ADT or RT + ADT 2-3 years

Metastatic disease: ADT

Bottom Line: Excluding skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer type in men, accounting for 26% of newly diagnosed cancers with men having a 1 in 7 lifetime risk. The median age of prostate cancer at diagnosis is the mid 60s and in 2015 there were 221,000 new cases per year, 27,500 deaths (the second most common form of cancer death, after lung cancer) and there are currently about 2.5 million prostate cancer survivors in the USA.  It is important to diagnose prostate cancer as early as possible in order to decide on the most appropriate form of management—whether it is surgery, radiation, or observation/monitoring. Risk stratification can help the decision-making process.

“Appropriate treatment implies that therapy be applied neither to those patients for whom it is unnecessary nor to those for whom it will prove ineffective. Furthermore, the therapy should be that which will most assuredly permit the individual a qualitatively and quantitatively normal life. It need not necessarily involve an effort at cancer cure. Human nature in physicians, be they surgeons, radiotherapists, or medical oncologists, is apt to attribute good results following treatment to such treatment and bad results to the cancer, ignoring what is sometimes the equally plausible possibility that the good results are as much a consequence of the natural history of the tumor as are the bad results.”

Willet Whitmore, M.D.

(Dr. Whitmore served as chief of urology for 33 years at what is now Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He died of prostate cancer at age 78 in 1995.)

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health  http://www.TheKegelFix.com

 

 

 

 

5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Her Man’s Pelvic Health

November 28, 2015

Andrew Siegel MD   11/28/15

4910841630_d096720d0d_o (1)

(Attribution: Pier-Luc Bergeron, A happy couple and a happy photographer; no changes made, https://www.flickr.com/photos/burgtender/4910841630)

Since this is Thanksgiving weekend and a broadly celebrated family holiday, I cannot think of a better time to blog about how wives/girlfriends/partners can help empower their men’s pelvic health.

  1. His Erections
  2. Prostate Cancer
  3. Bleeding
  4. Testes Lumps/Bumps
  5. Urinary Woes

 

Erectile Dysfunction: A “Canary in the Trousers”

If his erections are absent or lacking in rigidity or sustainability, it may just be the “tip of the iceberg,” indicative of more serious underlying medical problems. The quality of his erections can be a barometer of his cardiovascular health. Since penile arteries are tiny (diameter of 1-2 millimeters) and heart arteries larger (4 millimeters), it stands to reason that if vascular disease is affecting the penile arteries, it may affect the coronary arteries as well—if not now, then perhaps soon in the future. Since fatty plaque deposits in arteries compromise blood flow to smaller blood vessels before they do so to larger arteries, erectile dysfunction may be considered a genital “stress test.”

Bottom Line: If your man is not functioning well in the bedroom, think strongly about getting him checked for cardiovascular disease. His limp penis just may be the clue to an underlying more pervasive and serious problem.

Prostate Cancer

One in seven American men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetimes and most have no symptoms whatsoever, the diagnosis made via a biopsy because of an elevated or accelerated PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test and/or an abnormal rectal exam that reveals an asymmetry or lump. Similar to high blood pressure and glaucoma, prostate cancer causes no symptoms in its earliest phases and needs to be actively sought after.

With annual PSA testing, he can expect a small increase each year correlating with prostate growth. A PSA acceleration by more than a small increment is a “red flag.” The digital exam is simply the placement of a gloved, lubricated finger in the rectum to feel the size, contour and consistency of the prostate gland, seeking hardness, lumps or asymmetry that can be a clue to prostate cancer. It is not unlike the female  pelvic exam.

Bottom Line:  As breast cancer is actively screened for with physical examination and mammography, so prostate cancer should be screened for with PSA and digital rectal exam. In the event that prostate cancer is diagnosed, it is a treatable and curable cancer. Not all prostate cancers demand treatment as those with favorable features can be followed carefully, but for other men, treatment can be lifesaving.

Bleeding

Blood in the urine can be visible or only show up on dipstick or microscopic exam of the urine. Blood in the urine should also be thought of as a “red flag” that mandates an evaluation to rule out serious causes including cancers of the kidney and bladder. However, there are many causes of blood in the urine not indicative of a serious problem, including stones, urinary infections and prostate enlargement.

Blood in the semen is not uncommonly encountered in men and usually results from a benign inflammatory process that is usually self-limited, resolving within several weeks. It is rarely indicative of a serious underlying disorder, as frightening as it is to see blood in the ejaculate. Nonetheless, it should be checked out, particularly if it does not resolve.

Bottom Line: If blood is present when there should be none—including visible blood in the urine, blood stains on his undershorts or blood apparent under the microscope—it should not be ignored, but should be evaluated. If after having sex with your partner you notice a bloody vaginal discharge and you are not menstruating, consider that it might be his issue and make sure that he gets followed up.

Testes Lumps and Bumps

Most lumps and bumps of the testes are benign and not problematic. Although rare, testicular cancer is the most common solid malignancy in young men, with the greatest incidence being in the late 20s, striking men at the peak of life. The excellent news is that it is very treatable, especially so when picked up in its earliest stages, when it is commonly curable.

A testicular exam is a simple task that can be lifesaving. One of the great advantages of having his gonads located in such an accessible locale—conveniently “gift wrapped” in the scrotal satchel—is that it makes them so easy to examine. This is as opposed to your ovaries, which are internal and not amenable to ready inspection. This explains why early testes cancer diagnosis is a cinch as opposed to ovarian cancer, which most often presents at an advanced stage. In its earliest phases, testes cancer will cause a lump, irregularity, asymmetry, enlargement or heaviness of the testicle. It most often does not cause pain, so his absence of pain should not dissuade him from getting an abnormality looked into.

Your guy should be doing a careful exam of his testes every few weeks or so in the shower, with the warm and soapy conditions beneficial to an exam. If your man is a stoic kind of guy who is not likely to examine himself, consider taking matters into your own hands—literally: At a passionate moment, pursue a subtle, not-too-clinical exam under the guise of intimacy—it may just end up saving his life.

Bottom Line: Have the “cajones” to check his cajones. Because sperm production requires that his testes are kept cooler than core temperature, nature has conveniently designed mankind with his testicles dangling from his mid-section. There are no organs in the body—save your breasts—that are more external and easily accessible. If your man is not willing to do self-exams, at a moment of intimacy do a “stealth” exam under the guise of affection—it just might be lifesaving.

Urinary Woes

Most organs shrink with the aging process. However, his nose, ears, scrotum and prostate are the exceptions, enlarging as he ages. Unfortunately, the prostate is wrapped precariously around the urinary channel and as it enlarges it can constrict the flow of urine and can cause a host of symptoms. These include a weaker stream that hesitates to start, takes longer to empty, starts and stops and gives him the feeling that he has not emptied completely. He might notice that he urinates more often, gets up several times at night to empty his bladder and when he has to urinate it comes on with much greater urgency than it used to. He might be waking you up at night because of his frequent trips to the bathroom. Almost universal with aging is post-void dribbling, an annoying after-dribble.

Bottom Line: It is normal for him to experience some of these urinary symptoms as he ages. However, if he is getting up frequently at night, dribbling on the floor by the toilet, or has symptoms that annoy him and interfere with his quality of life, it is time to consider having him looked at by your friendly urologist to ensure that the symptoms are due to benign prostate enlargement and not other causes, to make sure that no harm has been done to the urinary tract and to offer treatment options.

Wishing you the best of health and a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: www.MalePelvicFitness.com. In the works is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.

Co-creator of Private Gym, a comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training program. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, Private Gym empowers men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.

Her Breasts and His Prostate…So Similar, So Mysterious

July 18, 2015

Andrew Siegel MD  7/18/15

prostate breast

(Thank you, Wikimedia, for above image)

The female breasts and the male prostate are both sources of fascination, curiosity, and fear. Hidden deep in the pelvis at the crossroads of the male urinary and reproductive systems, the prostate is arguably man’s center of gravity. On the other hand, the breasts—with an equal aura of mystery 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, curiously an erogenous zone as well as a feeding zone.

Interestingly enough, the breasts and prostate share much in common, both serving important “nutritional” roles. Each functions to manufacture a milky 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, which demand intense nutrition to support their arduous  marathon journey traversing the female reproductive tract.

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 female sex hormone estrogen and after menopause when estrogen levels decline, the glandular tissue withers, with the fatty tissue predominating.

The prostate—on the other hand—is made up of glandular tissue that produces prostate “milk,” and ducts that empty this fluid into the urethra at the time of sexual climax. At ejaculation the prostate fluid combines 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 male 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 the prostate fluid is via stimulation of the erect penis, with the release of semen and its prostate fluid component at the time of ejaculation.

Both the breasts and prostate can be considered to be reproductive organs since they are vital to nourishing infants and sperm, respectively. At the same time, they are sexual organs. The breasts can be thought of as accessories with 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 climax is the means of accessing the prostate’s reproductive function.

Both the breasts 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, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men (accounting for 26% of newly diagnosed cancers with men having a 1 in 7 lifetime risk) and breast cancer is the most common cancer in women (accounting for 29% of newly diagnosed cancers with women having a 1 in 8 lifetime risk). Both 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 medication, e.g., Tamoxifen and Lupron, respectively. Both breast and prostate cancer incidence increase with aging. The median age of breast cancer at diagnosis is the early 60’s and there are 232,000 new cases per year, 40,000 deaths (the second most common form of cancer death, after lung cancer) and there about 3 million breast cancer survivors in the USA. The median age of prostate cancer at diagnosis is the mid 60’s and there are 221,000 new cases per year, 27,500 deaths (the second most common form of cancer death, after lung cancer) and there are about 2.5 million prostate cancer survivors in the USA.

Both breast and prostate cancer are often detected during a screening examination before symptoms have developed. Breast cancer is often picked up via mammography, whereas prostate cancer is often identified via an elevated or accelerated PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) 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 with 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. Imaging tests used in the diagnosis and evaluation of both breast and prostate cancers are similar with both ultrasonography and MRI being very useful. Treatment modalities for both breast and prostate cancer share much in common with important roles for surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

In a further twist to the relationship between breast and prostate cancer, a recent study showed that women with close male relatives with prostate cancer are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Compared to women with no family history of breast or prostate cancer, those with a family history of both were 80% more likely to develop breast cancer.

Breast and Prostate Cancer Myths and Facts

“Only old people get breast or prostate cancer.

Fact: 25% of women with breast cancer develop it before age 50, whereas less than 5% of men with prostate cancer develop it before age 50; however, many men in their 50s are diagnosed with the disease.

“Men can’t get breast cancer and women can’t get prostate cancer.”

Fact: 1700 men are diagnosed with breast cancer with 450 deaths on an annual basis.  Women have structures called the Skene’s glands, which are the female homologue of the male prostate gland. On very rare occasions, the female “prostate” can develop cancer. The Skene’s glands are thought to contribute to “female ejaculation” at the time of sexual climax. 

“All lumps in the breast or prostate are cancer.”

Fact: 80% of breast lumps are due to benign conditions as are 50-80% of prostate “nodules.”  If an abnormality is found, further evaluation is necessary.  

“It’s not worth getting screened for breast cancer because of the USPSTF (United States Preventive Services Task Force) recommendation against routine screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years and against clinicians teaching women how to perform breast self-examination.  It’s not worth getting screened for prostate cancer because the USPSTF also recommended against prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening for prostate cancer.”

Fact: In my opinion, the USPSTF has done a great deal of harm to public health in the USA with their recommendations. The goal of screening is to pick up cancers in their earliest stages at times when treatment is likely to be most effective. Not all cancers need to be treated and the treatment can differ quite a bit based upon specifics, but screening populations at risk is a no-brainer.  For breast cancer and prostate cancer–the most common cancer in each gender–it is important to screen aggressively to obtain the necessary information to enable doctors and their patients make sensible decisions, which are individualized and nuanced, depending on a number of factors.

The reader is referred to a terrific recent article in the NY Times concerning screening for prostate cancer: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/06/opinion/bring-back-prostate-screening.html

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in your email in box go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com.  Work in progress is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Sexual, Urinary and Pelvic Health.

Co-creator of Private Gym pelvic floor muscle training program for men: http://www.privategym.com—also available on Amazon.

The Private Gym program is the go-to means of achieving pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance. It is a comprehensive, interactive, easy-to-use, medically sanctioned and FDA registered follow-along exercise program that builds upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel. It is also the first program designed specifically to teach men how to perform the exercises and a clinical trial has demonstrated its effectiveness in fostering more rigid and durable erections, improved ejaculatory control and heightened orgasms.

Prostate Cancer Screening: What’s New?

February 28, 2015

Andrew Siegel MD 2/28/15

The Dilemma

The downside of screening is over-detection of low-risk prostate cancer 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 cancer, with adverse consequences from necessary treatment not being given.

The Buck Stops Here

Prostate biopsy (ultrasound guided) is the definitive and conclusive test for prostate cancer. An elevated PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test or an abnormal DRE (digital rectal exam) are the findings that typically lead to the recommendation for prostate biopsy.

What’s New In Prostate Cancer Screening?

The following are refinements in the screening process that can help make the decision about whether or not to proceed with a prostate biopsy, potentially sparing some from the need to undergo the biopsy and clearly indicating the need for biopsy in others.

  • Free PSA
  • PSA Velocity
  • PSA Density
  • PCA-3
  • Prostate MRI
  • 4K Score

Free PSA

PSA circulates in the blood in a “free” form, which it is unbound and a “complex” form, in which it is bound to a protein. The free/total PSA can enhance the specificity of PSA testing. The greater the free/total PSA, the greater the chances that benign enlargement of the prostate is the cause of the PSA elevation. In men with a PSA between 4-10, the probability of cancer is less than 10% if the ratio is greater than 25% whereas the probability of cancer is almost 60% if the ratio is less than 10%.

PSA Velocity

It is extremely useful to compare the PSA values from year to year. Under normal circumstances, PSA increases by only a small increment, reflecting age-related benign prostate growth. PSA acceleration at a rate greater than anticipated is a red flag that may be indicative of prostate cancer and is one of the most common prompts for undergoing biopsy.

PSA Density

There is a direct relationship between prostate size and PSA, with larger prostates producing higher PSA levels. PSA density (PSA/prostate volume) is the relationship of the PSA level to the size of the prostate. PSA density > 0.15 is a red flag that may be indicative of prostate cancer.

PCA-3 (Prostate Cancer Antigen-3)

PCA-3 is a specific type of RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) that is released in high levels by prostate cancer cells. Its expression is 60-100x greater in prostate cancer cells than benign prostate cells, which makes this test much more specific for prostate cancer than PSA.  PCA-3 is a urine test. The prostate is gently “massaged” via DRE to “milk” prostate fluid into the urethra. The first ounce of urine voided immediately after massage is rich in prostatic fluid and cells and is collected and tested for the quantity of PCA-3 genetic material present. Urinary levels of PCA-3 are not affected by prostate enlargement or inflammation, as opposed to PSA levels. PCA-3 > 25 is suspicious for prostate cancer.

Prostate MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

MRI is a high-resolution imaging test that does not require the use of radiation and is capable of showing the prostate and surrounding tissues in multiple planes of view, identifying suspicious areas. MRI uses a powerful Tesla magnet and sophisticated software that 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 classification Definition
I Most probably benign
II Probably benign
III Indeterminate
IV Probable cancer
V Most probably cancer

4Kscore Test

The 4Kscore Test 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 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 or Proscar 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.)

As of now, the test is not covered by insurance and costs $395 from the lab that performs it.

Bottom Line: Excluding skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men (accounting for 26% of newly diagnosed cancers with men having a 1 in 7 lifetime risk). The median age of prostate cancer at diagnosis is the mid 60’s and there are 221,000 new cases per year, 27,500 deaths (the second most common form of cancer death, after lung cancer) and there are currently about 2.5 million prostate cancer survivors in the USA.  It is important to diagnose prostate cancer as early as possible in order to decide on the most appropriate form of management–surgery, radiation, or observation/monitoring (the most common treatment pathways, although there are other options as well).  These refinements in the screening process can help urologists make the decision about whether or not to proceed with a prostate biopsy.  

 

Wishing you the best in health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the inbox of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

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PSA Absurdity

January 31, 2015

Andrew Siegel MD   1/31/15

Women_Against_Prostate_Cancer_logo

(Image designed  by Abby Cycotte for WAPC)

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in males (excluding skin cancers)—paralleling breast cancer in females in many ways—with an estimated 233,000 new cases diagnosed in 2014. Over the latest 5-year period for which data is available, the death rate for prostate cancer decreased based upon improved early detection and treatment. There are 3 million prostate cancer survivors in the USA. The vast majority of prostate cancers are diagnosed by Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) screening, a simple blood test.

Prostate cancer screening with PSA has been the subject of intense controversy and debate, a controversy that I—as a practicing urologist—don’t quite get. A major backlash against screening occurred in 2012. It started with the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) grade “D” recommendation against PSA screening and their call for total abandonment of the test. Of note, there was not a single urologist on the committee. The same organization had previously advised that women in their 40’s should not undergo routine mammography, setting off another blaze of controversy. As a busy clinical urologist for almost three decades, I was deeply disturbed by their recommendation.

In 2013 the American Urological Association (AUA) issued guidelines recommending against PSA testing before age 55, with testing every other year between ages 55-69 and then only after “informed decision making,” a discussion between physician and patient weighing benefits and harms.

AUA Guideline Statements:

  1. Do not screen men under age 40.
  2. Do not screen men age 40-54, unless high risk (family history or African American), in which case decision should be individualized.
  3. Screen men 55-69 after informed decision making.
  4. Screening interval of “two years or more” may be preferred to annual screening to reduce harms of screening.
  5. Do not screen men older than 70 or any man with life expectancy less than 10-15 years, although some men in excellent health may benefit from screening.

When these guidelines came out, I was in disbelief and shock. Why did the AUA—whose mission statement is “to promote the highest standards of urological clinical care through education, research and in the formulation of health care policy”—kowtow on this vital issue?

Further fueling the controversy and confusion is the lack of consensus among professional groups including the European Association of Urology, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and the Prostate Cancer World Congress. Uncertainty in the lay press has prompted both patients and physicians to question PSA testing and recommendations for prostate biopsy.

Is there really any harm in screening? Screening provides information and there are no side effects aside from whatever complications may ensue from drawing a small amount of blood. There are potential side effects from prostate biopsy (although they are few and far between) and certainly there are potential side effects with treatment; however, it seems that both the USPSTF and the AUA have confused screening with treatment. The potential side effects of active treatment should not influence the diagnosis of prostate cancer by the proper means. “Treatment or non-treatment decisions can be made once the cancer is found, but not knowing about it in the first place surely burns bridges.”—Dr. Jay Smith

I ardently disagree with the assertions of the task force and the AUA. Urologists, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists (those physicians who are in the “trenches” and take care of prostate cancer on a daily basis) understand how devastating prostate cancer can be and the importance of early detection.

So what has been the upshot of this controversy? What has happened is that instead of proceeding directly to prostate biopsy, many more men with an elevated or accelerated PSA are having repeat PSA testing (often fractionated to determine free PSA/total PSA), the PCA-3 urine test and a prostate MRI. If the regulatory agencies had cost savings on their agenda, they have failed miserably as more testing (that incurs a significant expense) is being done than ever before.

Busy urologists are seeing more and more indecision and equivocation among primary care physicians who are confronted with patients who want screening, but guidelines that suggest that it is not necessary. Despite the USPSTF recommendations and AUA guidelines, urologists are actually seeing more referrals for elevated PSA than ever before.

Hard Facts:

  1. PSA screening has resulted in downward stage migration—detecting prostate cancer in an early and curable stage, before it spreads and becomes incurable. If these guidelines are adhered to, we will most certainly give back the gains we have made and experience a reverse stage migration and a return to the pre-PSA era when up to 20% of men presented with advanced disease.
  2. PSA testing unequivocally reduces metastatic prostate cancer (cancer that has spread) and death from prostate cancer: USA death rates from prostate cancer have fallen 4% annually since 1992, five years after introduction of PSA testing.
  3. Rigid guidelines unfortunately do not allow for a nuanced and individualized approach to early prostate cancer detection. PSA has many shortcomings, but used intelligently and appropriately will continue to save lives.
  4. Baseline PSA testing for men in their 40’s is useful for predicting the future of prostate cancer.
  5. Not permitting men age 40-55 the opportunity for screening denies them the potential to diagnosis a disease that is potentially lethal; this population has a long life expectancy and therefore the greatest need for early diagnosis and curative treatment.
  6. Older men in good health with over a 10-year life expectancy should not be denied PSA testing simply on the basis of their age.
  7. 95% of male urologists and 80% of primary care physicians have annual PSA screening—clearly, those in the know feel that screening is beneficial.
  8. Death from prostate cancer is unpleasant, often involving painful metastases to the spine and pelvis and not uncommonly, kidney and bladder outlet obstruction; our charge as urologists is to try to not let this scenario come to fruition.

When interpreted appropriately, the PSA test provides important information in the diagnosis, pre-treatment staging, risk assessment and monitoring of prostate cancer patients. Marginalizing this important test does a great disservice to those who may benefit from early prostate cancer detection.

I have practiced urology in both the pre-PSA era and the post-PSA era. In my early years of training, it was not uncommon be called to the emergency room to treat men who could not urinate, 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 prognosis. In the post-PSA era, that scenario—fortunately—occurs on an extremely infrequent basis thanks to PSA screening. The vast majority of men who present that way these days are those who have opted NOT to obtain a screening PSA as part of their annual physical exams.

Bottom Line: The downside of screening is over-detecting low-risk prostate cancer that may never prove to be problematic, but may result in unnecessary treatment with adverse consequences. The downside of not screening is under-detecting aggressive prostate cancer, with adverse consequences from necessary treatment not being given. We need to separate screening from treatment and screen smarter.”—Dr. Judd Moul

The major challenge for those of us who treat prostate cancer is to distinguish between clinically significant and clinically insignificant disease and to decide the best means of eradicating clinically significant disease to maintain quantity and quality of life. Not all prostate cancers require active treatment and not all prostate cancers are life threatening. The decision to proceed to active treatment is one that men should discuss in detail with their urologists to determine whether active treatment is necessary, or whether surveillance may be an option, appropriate in selected men with low-risk prostate cancer (low PSA; minimum number of biopsies showing cancer; low-grade cancer as determined by the pathologist). Those at greater risk can be managed appropriately (surgery or radiation) and many cured, avoiding the potential for progression of cancer and painful metastases and death.

“PSA is the best screening test we have for prostate cancer, and until there is a replacement for PSA, it would be unconscionable to stop it. Contrary to the USPSTF report, compelling evidence shows that PSA screening reduces prostate cancer deaths. This evidence needs to be shared with the public.”
–Dr. William Catalona

The Samadi Challenge For Prostate Cancer

Dr. David Samadi, Chief of Prostate Robotic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, has created a challenge to women, since they are the proactive gender in terms of understanding the importance of health risks, screening and routine checkups and are often the driving force in men’s health.  Men are much more reluctant to engage with the health care system than women—particularly preventive health care—and Dr. Samadi sees women playing a pivotal role in encouraging men to focus on prostate health. On a larger scale, he sees women as ideal advocates and champions to help raise global awareness for prostate cancer. The Samadi Challenge involves women learning the risk factors for prostate cancer, improving the lifestyles of the men in their lives, encouraging men to have annual screening and in the case of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, urging men to seek appropriate treatment. Dr. Samadi launched a FaceBook page: “Women for Prostate Health,” a means to help women initiate a conversation about prostate health.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Kobo) and paperback: http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

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Must My Prostate Cancer Be Treated?

January 4, 2014

Blog # 135

“To do nothing, that’s something.”

Samuel Shem, The House of God

Prostate cancer needs to be accorded respect as there are 240,000 new cases diagnosed annually and it accounts for 30,000 deaths per year, being the second leading cause of cancer death in men, only behind lung cancer.

Unlike many other malignancies, prostate cancer is often not a lethal disease and may never need to be treated. Shocking, right…a cancer that does not necessarily need to be cut out or managed in any way! Patients with slow-growing, early stage cancer as well as older men with other health issues may be put on surveillance, aka watchful waiting, as opposed to traditional treatment with surgery or radiation.

The problem is that not all prostate cancers are slow-growing and early stage, and the challenge is how to predict the future behavior of the cancer so as to treat it appropriately—offering cure to those with aggressive cancer, but sparing the side effects of treatment in those who have non-aggressive cancer. The goal of active surveillance is to allow men with low risk prostate cancer to avoid radical treatment with its associated morbidity and/or delay definitive treatment until signs of progression occur. This involves two things—vigilant monitoring and a compliant patient who is compulsive about follow-up.

The ratio of 7:1 of the lifetime likelihood of diagnosis of prostate cancer (about 1 in 6 men) to death from prostate cancer (about 1 in 40 men) points out that many men with prostate cancer have an indolent (i.e., slow growing) cancer. Because of this fact, an alternative strategy to aggressive management of all men with prostate cancer is active surveillance, a structured means of careful follow-up with rigorous monitoring and immediate intervention should signs of progression develop. Being a candidate for this approach is based upon the results of the PSA blood test, findings on the digital rectal exam, and the details of the biopsy, which usually involves obtaining one dozen samples of prostate tissue.

General eligibility criteria for active surveillance include all of the following (Note that these are basic guidelines and need to be modified in accordance with patient age and general health— certainly if one has a life expectancy < 10 years, he would be a good candidate for active surveillance, regardless of the following):

  • PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) less or equal to 10 (PSA is the blood test that when elevated or accelerated indicates the possibility of a problem with the prostate and is often followed by a prostate ultrasound/biopsy)
  • Gleason score 6 or less (possible score 2-10, more about this below)
  • Stage T1c-T2a

 (T1c = picked up by PSA with normal prostate on rectal exam; T2a = picked up by abnormal prostate on rectal exam, involving only one side of the prostate)
  • Less then 3 of 12 biopsy cores involved with cancer
  • Less then 50% of any one core involved with cancer

Prostate cancer grade is often the most reliable indicator of the potential for growth and spread. The Gleason score provides one of the best guides to the prognosis and treatment of prostate cancer and is based on a pathologist’s microscopic examination of prostate tissue. To determine a Gleason score, a pathologist assigns a separate numerical grade to the two most predominant architectural patterns of the cancer cells. The numbers range from 1 (the cells look nearly normal) to 5 (the cells have the most cancerous appearance). The sum of the two grades is the Gleason score. The lowest possible score is 2, which rarely occurs; the highest is 10. The Gleason score can predict the aggressiveness and behavior of the cancer. High scores tend to suggest a worse prognosis than lower scores because the more deranged and mutated cells usually grow faster than the more normal-appearing ones.

Prostate cancers can be “triaged” into one of three groupings based upon Gleason score. Scores of 2-4 are considered low grade; 5-7, intermediate grade; 8-10, high grade.

The active surveillance monitoring schedule is typically:

  • PSA and DRE every 3-6 months for several years, then annually
  • Prostate biopsies: one year after initial diagnosis, then periodically until age 80 or so (once again, a judgment call)

As long as the cancer remains low-risk, the surveillance protocol may be continued, sparing the patient the potential side effects of surgery or radiation.

Another meaningful way of predicting the behavior of prostate cancer is by using the PSA Doubling Time (PSADT)—defined as the amount of time it takes for the PSA to double. A short PSA doubling time is indicative of an aggressive, rapidly growing tumor, whereas a long PSA doubling time is indicative of an indolent, slow growing tumor. A PSADT of less than 3 years is clearly associated with the potential for progression of prostate cancer.

A change in plan from active surveillance to more active intervention needs to be instituted if any of the following occurs:

  • PSA doubling time is noted to be less then 3 years
  • Biopsy reveals grade progression to Gleason 7 or higher
  • Biopsy reveals increased prostate cancer volume

Approximately half of men on active surveillance remain free of progression at ten years, and definitive treatment is most often effective in those with progression. The absence of cancer on repeated prostate biopsy (because the cancer is of such low volume) identifies men who are unlikely to have progressive prostate cancer.

Bottom Line: Active surveillance is an effective means of minimizing over-treatment of indolent prostate cancer and avoiding the side effects of immediate treatment. Its disadvantages are the need for frequent and repeated testing and biopsy, the anxiety of living with untreated prostate cancer, and the possibility that delayed treatment may not be curative, although that is not usually the case.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Facebook Page: Our Greatest Wealth Is Health

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Available on Amazon in Kindle edition

Author of: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health; in press and available in e-book and paperback formats in  2014.

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Screening For Prostate Cancer Revisited

December 14, 2013

Blog # 132

The ignoramuses at the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) gave Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) testing a grade “D” recommendation and called for the complete abandonment of the test for prostate cancer screening.

Having lived and worked deep within the trenches of urology for over 25 years, I almost stroked when I read their recommendation. I previously crafted video responses: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8fpxszVMTQ

and gave a “horse’s ass” award to the USPSTF in another video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIIZjk9lrlM

The Prostate Cancer World Congress took place in Melbourne Australia in August of 2013, where experts proposed a consensus view on the early detection of prostate cancer.  This material was published in the British Journal of Urology International.

The consensus was engendered by the great confusion generated after the USPSTF called for the total abandonment of PSA testing. The international experts who wrote the consensus statement included 14 international experts on prostate cancer, unlike the USPSTF, where there was not a single urologist on the committee.

The experts at the Prostate Cancer World Congress adopted the following five statements:   

  1. For men age 50–69, evidence demonstrates that PSA testing reduces death from prostate cancer by 21% and the incidence of metastatic prostate cancer by 30%.
  2. Prostate cancer diagnosis must be uncoupled from prostate cancer intervention.  In other words, not everyone with prostate cancer will need to be actively treated and the potential side effects of active treatment should not influence the diagnosis of prostate cancer by the proper means.
  3. PSA testing should not be considered on its own, but rather as part of a multivariable approach to early prostate cancer detection.  The experts proposed the use of prostate examination, family history, ethnic background, prostate volume, as well as a variety of risk models based upon PSA.
  4. Baseline PSA testing for men in their 40s is useful for predicting the future of prostate cancer. Men with baseline values that are high need further PSA testing.
  5. Older men in good health with over a 10-year life expectancy should not be denied PSA testing on the basis of their age.   This population of older men may certainly benefit from the early diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancers. This does not pertain to men with numerous other significant medical problems, but a healthy man in his mid-70s should not be denied PSA testing that might identify a cancer that has the potential to destroy his quantity and quality of life.  (In particular, the older man who comes to the office accompanied by his father should certainly not be denied!)

The consensus was that we should maintain the gains that have been made over the years since PSA was introduced—in terms of decreasing the number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer metastases (cancer that has spread) and reducing prostate cancer deaths—while minimizing the potential harms of over-diagnosis and overtreatment by increasing the use of active surveillance protocols in those men with low-risk prostate cancer.   Abandoning PSA testing as recommended by the USPSTF would lead to a reversal of all gains made over the course of the past 30 years.  Well-informed men should be offered the opportunity for early diagnosis of prostate cancer. To quote Dr. Jay Smith:  “Treatment or non-treatment decisions can be made once the cancer is found, but not knowing about it in the first place surely burns bridges.”

My take on the subject of screening for prostate cancer:

I like to keep things simple…I believe in two rules that are appropriate for medicine as well as just about everything in life.

Rule # 1: Do no harm.

Rule # 2: Do good.

To apply these rules to the game of golf, for example, “do no harm” means staying out of trouble as much as possible, keeping the ball out of the woods, bunkers and water hazards.  “Do good” by hitting the ball accurately in terms of distance and direction and setting up the next shot.

Screening for prostate cancer involves taking a medical history, doing a rectal exam to check the contour and consistency of the prostate, and a simple PSA blood test. “Do no harm” is satisfied because these tests are in no way harmful to the patient and provide information that is helpful, particularly when done on a serial basis, noting changes over time.

If exam shows an irregularity of the prostate, if the PSA is elevated, or if the PSA has accelerated significantly over the course of one year in a reasonably healthy man who has at least a ten-year life expectancy, doing a prostate ultrasound and biopsy is indicated. This test does entail a small risk of bleeding and infection, but the potential benefits far outweigh the risks.  “Doing good” is satisfied by the knowledge provided by the biopsy—the reassurance that comes from a biopsy report that shows no cancer and the potential for cure if the biopsy shows cancer.  Furthermore, the specific biopsy results along with other factors can predict which cancers are low-risk, which are medium-risk, and which are high-risk, important considerations in terms of active treatment versus active surveillance.

Many men who are found to have low-risk prostate cancer (low PSA; minimum number of biopsies showing cancer; low-grade cancer as determined by the pathologist) can be followed without active treatment (active surveillance) and those at greater risk can be managed appropriately (surgery or radiation), and many cured, avoiding the potential for progression of cancer and painful metastases and death—all while weighing the benefits of intervention against the risks.  Death from prostate cancer is unpleasant to say the least, often involving painful metastases to the spine and pelvis and not uncommonly, kidney and bladder obstruction, and our charge as urologists is to try to not let this scenario ever come to fruition.

One of our fundamental goals as urologists is to screen for prostate cancer—

the most common cancer in men present in 17% of the population—and if present, to provide appropriate guidance to best maintain both quality and quantity of life.  Anyone who reads the obituaries knows that prostate cancer is a cancer that is lethal, and if you don’t read the obituaries, I can promise you that prostate cancer kills in unkind ways. Even though only 3% of the male population dies from prostate cancer, that amounts to many thousands of men annually… and you do not want to be one of them.  I have my own PSA and prostate exam done every year and PSA screening was responsible for making an early diagnosis of my father’s prostate cancer in 1997, which was cured by surgery, resulting in a healthy and thriving, cancer-free 82 year-old man who will never die from prostate cancer.

BOTTOM LINE: PSA remains an invaluable screening tool for the detection of prostate cancer and ALL men ages 50 and over (40 if there is a family history) should be tested…IT JUST MAY SAVE YOUR LIFE!

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Facebook Page: Our Greatest Wealth Is Health

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Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food: www.promiscuouseating.com

Available on Amazon in Kindle edition

Author of: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health; in press and available in e-book and paperback formats in January 2014.

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Men’s Health: Lab Tests You Should Be Getting

November 9, 2013

Blog #127

Despite the nihilistic attitude of the United States Preventive Services Task Force—an agency that condemns all kinds of testing and even annual physical exams—it is my fundamental belief that preemptive testing and periodic doctor visits play a significant role in maintaining one’s health.

Clearly, genetics loads the gun and lifestyle pulls the trigger; however, physicians can help your cause and should be considered part of your advocacy team with the goal of maintaining health and quality and quantity of life and lending service when disease rears its head.

There are several lab tests that can lend insight into one’s health or lack thereof, and there are a number of findings on physical examination that must be actively sought after because they cause no symptoms whatsoever.  For example, high blood pressure, glaucoma (high eye pressure), and prostate nodules and lumps all generally are asymptomatic, and if unrecognized and untreated can lead to heart attacks and strokes, blindness, and metastatic prostate cancer, respectively.   Simple examinations can readily detect all of the three aforementioned problems.  Lab tests that are helpful include the following: glucose; hemoglobin A1c; lipid profile; PSA; uric acid; C-reactive protein; testosterone; and thyroid profile.

Glucose:  Glucose (blood sugar) is a major source of energy for our cells.  The level of fasting glucose should range between 60–100 mg/deciliter. Anything over 100 is considered abnormal and could indicate the possibility of a pre-diabetic state.  If substantially elevated, diabetes mellitus is likely present.  This is important to recognize because of the cardiovascular and health ramifications if unmanaged.

The pancreatic hormones insulin and glucagon regulate blood glucose by decreasing and increasing glucose levels, respectively.  Diabetes is a condition in which either there is insufficient insulin present or resistance to the effects of insulin.

Hemoglobin A1c:  This is a measurement of how sugarcoated your red blood cells are.  Anything above 5.7% is considered abnormal and the higher the level, the greater the risk for poorly controlled diabetes.

Lipid Profile:  Total cholesterol and its components consisting of HDL, LDL and VLDL as well as triglycerides are important tests in terms of predicting cardiovascular disease, which remains the leading cause of death in Americans.

PSA:  Prostate Specific Antigen is a blood test for a protein that is produced by the prostate and, if elevated, may indicate an underlying process including prostate cancer, prostatitis, or benign prostate enlargement.   It is most useful after a baseline has been established and year-to-year comparisons are made; when there is a rapid acceleration over a one-year time interval, it demands evaluation to seek out the source.  Absolute elevations in PSA and rapid accelerations in PSA over time are the most common reasons that prostate biopsies are performed and are the underlying basis upon which most diagnoses of prostate cancer are made.  This test allows recognition of prostate cancer years before it may present as a nodule or lump of the prostate gland.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise…early diagnosis and treatment saves lives.

Uric Acid:  This chemical is a byproduct of metabolism of purines that are found in rich protein sources including shellfish, red meat, and other foods.   If elevated, it can cause gout and/or kidney stones.  High levels of uric acid are correlated with cardiovascular and kidney disease.

C-Reactive Protein:  This is a protein that is manufactured by the liver, frequently in response to inflammation; when elevated, it is often a signal to check the arteries for blockages.

Testosterone:  This is the all-important male sex hormone that is responsible for much more than male sexuality.   Many experts view the level of testosterone as a general marker of overall men’s health.  Testosterone has a critical role in the masculinizing process at the time of puberty and has a major role in male physical development, promoting tissue growth responsible for the building of muscle mass, bone mass and strength.   Testosterone greatly impacts physical development, sexuality, mood, energy levels, etc., so it is wise to know what your testosterone level is, particularly if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with low testosterone.

Thyroid Profile:  This includes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) as well as T3 and T4.   The thyroid is our gland that regulates our metabolism and is therefore very important in terms of our weight.

Bottom Line:  Don’t take better care of your car than yourself!  Avail yourself of the diagnostic and preemptive tests that modern medicine has to offer. An annual visit after age 40 to an internist is a prudent move.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Facebook Page: Our Greatest Wealth Is Health

Please visit page and “like.”

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food: www.promiscuouseating.com

Available on Amazon in Kindle edition

Author of: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health; in press and available in e-book and paperback formats in January 2014.

Blog subscription: A new blog is posted every week.   On the lower right margin you can enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts in your inbox.  Please feel free to avail yourself of these educational materials and share them with your friends and family.

 

What The Heck is Urology?

August 24, 2013

Andrew Siegel, MD  Blog #116

“Urology” (uro—urinary tract and logos—study of) is a medical specialty concerned with the study, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of the urinary tract in females and of the genitourinary tract in males. The organs under the “domain” of urology include the adrenal glands, kidneys, the ureters (tubes connecting the kidneys to the urinary bladder), the urinary bladder and the urethra (the channel that conducts urine from the bladder to the outside).  The male reproductive organs include the testes (i.e., testicles), epididymis (structures above and behind the testicle where sperm mature and are stored), vas deferens (sperm duct), seminal vesicles (the structure that produces the bulk of semen), prostate gland and, of course, the scrotum and penis.  The reproductive and urinary tracts are closely connected, and disorders of one oftentimes affect the other…thus urologists are referred to as  “genitourinary” specialists. Urology involves both medical and surgical strategies to approach a variety of conditions.

Urology has always been on the cutting edge of surgical advancements (no pun intended) and urologists employ minimally invasive technologies including fiber-optic scopes to be able to view the entire inside aspect of the urinary tract, as well as ultrasound, lasers, laparoscopy and robotics.  There is a great deal of overlap in what urologists do with other medical and surgical disciplines, including nephrology (doctors who specialize in medical diseases of the kidney); oncology (cancer specialists); radiation oncologists (radiation cancer specialists); radiology (imaging); gynecology (female specialists); and endocrinology (hormone specialists).

Urologists are the male counterparts to gynecologists and the go-to physicians when it comes to expertise in male pelvic health.  Urologists, in addition to being physicians, are also surgeons who care for serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, particularly cancers of the genital and urinary tracts.  In terms of new cancer cases per year in American men, prostate cancer is number one accounting for almost 30% of cases; bladder cancer is number four accounting for 6% of cases; and cancer of the kidney and renal pelvis (the inner part of the kidney that collects the urine) are number six accounting for 5% of cases.  Urologists are also the specialists who treat testicular cancer.  Urologists also treat women with kidney and bladder cancer, although the prevalence of these cancers is much less so than in males. 

Very common reasons for a referral to a urologist are the following: blood in the urine, whether it is visible or picked up on a urinalysis done as part of an annual physical; an elevated PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) or an accelerated increase of PSA over time; prostate enlargement; irregularities of the prostate on examination; urinary difficulties ranging the gamut from urinary incontinence to the inability to urinate (urinary retention).

Urologists manage a variety of non-cancer issues. Kidney stones, which can be extraordinarily painful, keep us very busy, especially in the hot summer months when dehydration (a major risk factor) is more prevalent. Infections are a large part of our practice and can involve the bladder, kidneys, prostate, or the testicles and epididymis.  Urinary infections is one problem that is much more prevalent in women than in men.  Sexual dysfunction is a very prevalent condition that occupies much of the time of the urologist—under this category are problems of erectile dysfunction, problems of ejaculation, and testosterone issues. Urologists treat not only male infertility, but create male infertility when it is desired by performing voluntary male sterilization (vasectomy).   Urologists are responsible for caring for scrotal issues including testicular pain and swelling.   Many referrals are made to urologists for blood in the semen.

Training to become a urologist involves attending 4 years of medical school after college and 1–2 years of general surgery training followed by 4 years of urology residency. Thereafter, many urologists like myself pursue additional sub-specialty training in the form of a fellowship that can last anywhere from 1–3 years.  Urology board certification can be achieved if one graduates from an accredited residency and passes a written exam and an oral exam and has an appropriate log of cases that are reviewed by the board committee.  One must thereafter maintain board certification by participating in continuing medical education and passing a recertification exam every ten years.  Becoming board certified is the equivalent of a lawyer passing the bar exam.

In addition to obtaining board certification in general urology, there are 2 sub-specialties within the scope of urology in which sub-specialty board certification can be obtained—pediatric urology, which is the practice of urology limited to children and female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery (FPMRS), which involves female urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and other female uro-gynecological issues.  The FPMRS boards were offered for the very first time in June 2013, and I am pleased to announce that I am now board certified in both general urology and FPMRS.  There are approximately 100 or so urologists in the entire country who are board certified in the urology subspecialty of FPMRS.

In terms of the demographics of urology, although urology is largely a male specialty, women have been entering the urological workforce with increasing frequency.  This is because female students now comprise approximately 50% of United States medical school population. There are 10,000 practicing urologists in the USA, of which about 500 are women. Urologists have a median age of 53, so we are not a particularly young specialty. The aging population will demand more urological health services and the Affordable Care Act will result in the dramatic expansion of the number of American citizens with health insurance. These factors combined with the aging of the urological workforce and the contraction due to retirement, all in the face of growing demands, does not augur well for a balance of supply and demand in the forthcoming years.  Hopefully there will be enough of us to provide urological care to those in the population that need it.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food: www.promiscuouseating.com

Available on Amazon in Kindle edition

Author of: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health, in press and available in e-book and paperback formats in the Autumn 2013.

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