Men are mostly mum about prostate cancer, but new options improve treatment, outcome

Composer, guitarist Frank Zappa succumbed to prostate cancer in 1993.

Above, Grateful Dead bassist and composer Phil Lesh underwent successful prostate cancer surgery in 2006.

Guitar Players Stephen Stills underwent surgery for prostate cancer Jan. 3. Singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg, part of the “soft rock” movement of the 1970s, died from prostate cancer Dec. 16. He was 56.

Prostate cancer. Many men don’t like to talk about it. It’s a disease that’s wrapped issues of virility and tends to strike older men — a generation that doctors say tends to talk less openly about personal health issues.

But recent news that musical celebrities Dan Fogelberg and Stephen Stills had been diagnosed with prostate cancer may have the effect of starting more discussions. Fogelberg, 56, died of the disease Dec. 16; The following day, Crosby, Stills and Nash band member Graham Nash mentioned in a Larry King interview that the 62-year-old Stills had been diagnosed with it and was planning to seek treatment.

Legendary musician Frank Zappa died of prostate cancer in 1992, at age 52.

“Anytime you get someone who’s had their name on the marquee, you think, ‘Hey, these guys are just as mortal as I am,'” said Dr. Gus Espinosa, a psychiatrist at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce. “It pushes things into the public eye and they’re talked about a little more.”

Espinosa said women have sought him out for counseling after treatments for breast and other gender-specific cancers. But no man has sought his counsel to talk about the effects of prostate cancer and treatment, Espinosa said.

“People who come into my office come because of a perceived lack of options in their lives,” he said.

Today, there are options for treating prostate cancer that are less likely to result in feared side effects — mainly sexual impotence and urinary incontinence — that can make men delay exams and treatment.

Prostate cancer is the most-diagnosed cancer in men, said Dr. Michael Lustgarten, a urologist at Martin Memorial Medical Center. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men, following lung cancer.

Lustgarten said improved prostate surgery techniques have reduced the overall chance of total urinary incontinence to less than 7 percent, while reducing sexual impotence to 25 percent to 35 percent of patients one year after surgery.

“We now know where the nerves are and how to spare them,” Lustgarten said. “But there’s no guarantee.”

Viagra and other pills to treat erectile dysfunction also are helping reduce post-surgical potency problems.

“A lot of (urologists) put some of our patients on the ED pills twice a week after surgery,” Lustgarten said. “We want to encourage blood flow and it also gives them confidence.”

The number of prostate cancers diagnosed is growing due to better detection and an older population. But at the same time, the ratio of deaths has decreased: There were about 100,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in 1990 and 45,000 deaths.

Ten years later, about 200,000 cases were diagnosed, Lustgarten said, resulting in 35,000 deaths.

Exams to detect prostate cancer are two-part: A blood test is done to detect prostate-specific antigen or PSA; also, a digital rectal exam is done in which the physician feels with a finger for abnormalities in prostate gland.

The DRE is necessary, Lustgarten said, because it can detect cancer not revealed by the PSA blood test.


Free prostate cancer screenings will be available 4:30-6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at Martin Memorial’s Robert and Carol Weissman Cancer Center, 501 E. Osceola St., Stuart. Phone: (772) 223-5945, ext. 3736, for an appointment.

An educational forum about prostate cancer will take place 10 a.m.-noon March 1 at the St. Lucie West campus of Indian River Community College, 500 N.W. California Blvd., Port St. Lucie. Phone: (866) 361-4673 for reservations for the free forum, which will feature urologists and medical and radiation oncologists.


White males 50 and older should have annual examinations for prostate cancer, unless there is a close family history of the disease. In those instances, annual exams should begin at 40. The incidence of prostate cancer is higher among African-American males, who should begin annual exams at 40, or 30 if a close family member has had the disease. Article by By James Kirley, January 8, 2008 Approved by The Fort Pierce Tribune. Guitar Players

4 Responses to Silence can be Deadly When it Comes to Prostate Cancer..

  1. Important info for all men to consider. Thanks for informing us!

  2. Hey Danny. Thanks so much for the info–you’re right…guys don’t like to talk about this but…you see what can happen. Thanks for doing this–you really care about your customers!

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