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Dr. Oz Plans Prostate Cancer Screening on Live TV

Posted Feb 11 2010 12:00am

A PSA, that is, prostate cancer antigen screening,- on live TV?  With a DRE - a digital rectal exam?

This afternoon I got a Tweet from Dr. Oz who says: "During today's show (Thursday, February 11) we're doing a live prostate exam on stage -- definitely a first."

I imagine the exam he's referring to is not just the PSA blood screening but a digital rectal exam. If so, it will really be a first for a prime time TV show.

Considering that the Dr. Oz show's audience consists mostly of Boomer women, this "happening' is quite something!  But anyone who knows me recognizes that this is an important topic for men AND women. After all when a man has a prostate problem, whether benign or cancerous, it impacts on his relationship and sexual relations with his wife or partner.

But is Dr. Oz really going to have a live camera shot of a doctor, - whether himself or a urologist, placing a gloved finger up a patient's rear end? And won't that make the women in the TV studio, and the entire TV audience- men too, kind of squeamish or worse?

I don't know. But I can tell you that a DRE is where "the rubber meets the road" for most men. If men have any reluctance to get screened for prostate cancer it's because very few like the idea of another man's finger going where "the sun don't shine"!  Unlike women, who tend to accept a gyn's vaginal probe at least once a year, men tend to shy away from even the thought of being poked and prodded anywhere near their backside.

In case you're wondering, it's just as uncomfortable for many examining doctors too! I learned this from the head of a urological service at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, who joined my National Prostate Cancer Awareness Tour this past September. In his words, "Any patient who thinks we docs like it any more than you do, is sadly mistaken!"

The good news is that, any homophobic anxiety notwithstanding, the DRE is usually accomplished in 10 seconds from start to finish. That's all it takes to see if there is a tumor, or cancerous bump on a man's prostate. Along with abnormal PSA blood-work, If a tumor is found, it could confirm that a  man's prostate might well require a followup biopsy to determine if he really has prostate cancer.

To think that those 10 seconds have daunted all too many men age 40 and over from getting appropriate prostate cancer screening is unthinkable to me and others who value their health. But we can't deny this happens all the time.

After such screening and a followup biopsy men should not assume they need to get invasive treatment. But it's clear to me that every man has an obligation and right to know what's going on inside his body. That's the only way he and his doctor can judiciously decide what's the next step he should take.

From widely circulated pronouncements months ago, it's evident that the American Cancer Society's chief medical officer claims that men should avoid routine PSA testing and prostate screening with or without a DRE because it generally leads to over-treatment. But I firmly believe that ignorance is not bliss.

Not knowing is hardly the same as finding out if you might have prostate cancer. Even if you do, depending on its severity, you can always decide for yourself whether you should do something about it or not.

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