Needed: A New Approach to Prostate Cancer

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As I watched my godson playing online computer games with his children and their friends I thought back to the time we’d gone to a planetarium where he first learned about astronomy and physics.  I had no idea the subject would grab his interest and lead to his future as a scientist for a major research firm.  It gave me a minor sense of achievement because I’m the one who exposed him to the subject that would become his life work.  And I enjoyed seeing him play games from Gamestop to expose another generation to the technology and to his work.  We’d bought them with a Groupon that enabled us to get some games for up to 70% off at their latest clearance.

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Of course, my understanding of all this was marginal at best.  However, I was certainly well versed on the medical condition he told me he’s facing.  Several of my relatives had encountered prostate cancer.    But for some reason open discussion of the matters concerning prostate cancer doesn’t get the same degree of attention that lung, breast or colon cancer do.  I suspect this is related to the concept of “masculinity” which requires men to “suffer in silence” and refrain from openly discussing their ailment and its side effects.  Yet prostate cancer has climbed to a point where it ranks not far behind heart disease as a killer of American males.  Sadly, research and information on the disease is only now reaching the public in an open fashion.  Aggressive efforts to learn its causal factors and find effective treatments has not progressed on a rate equal to that of other more publicized conditions.

Part of this is due to a long-standing attitude even in parts of the medical profession that the cancer is usually so slow in its growth that the patient will die of some other cause before the cancer reaches a critical stage.  This philosophy – often called “watchful waiting” – overlooks the fact that our medical successes has made the human life span so much longer that leaving an ailment untreated may be tantamount to giving it permission to “do its thing” – particularly if we assume that other ailments may be cured or their impacts deferred.  We may need a more assertive effort to face the challenges future generations will encounter. Continuing the current approach means a Micawber-like policy of waiting for something to “turn up” – an attitude that ignores modern needs.

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