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Book review: “Prostate and Cancer: A Family Guide to Diagnosis, Treatment, and Survival”

Posted Jan 19 2010 12:00am

By Sheldon Marks, MD

Review by Scott Keith

The prostate is a particularly vexing gland. It isn’t necessary for survival, but it assists in the production of semen. Perhaps more than anything else, the prostate is a huge source of anxiety for men entering middle age. As a man approaches his 40s and 50s, the prostate can start acting up. It can grow and produce urinary symptoms. If a man lives long enough, there’s a good chance he’ll get prostate cancer. Statistics reveal that cancer of the prostate is one of the most common cancers affecting American men. Each year, over 186 thousand new cases are diagnosed in the United States. To put it in perspective: One in six men will be diagnosed with the disease during his life.

No publication or website should substitute for a visit to the family physician, but a Tucson, Arizona urologist, Dr. Sheldon Marks, has written a book that makes it incredibly easy for men to get acquainted with the inner workings of the pesky, walnut-sized prostate. Armed with this valuable information, a man can comfortably walk into his urologist’s office and have a frank, meaningful discussion.

Now in it’s fourth edition, “Prostate & Cancer: A Family Guide to Diagnosis, Treatment, and Survival,” begins by exploring the anatomy and function of the prostate gland. Then, in an easily digestible question and answer format, Marks explores the ABC’s of prostate cancer, examines the effect of diet and nutrition on the disease, explains a pair of vital diagnostic tools (the digital rectal exam and PSA blood test) and illustrates a variety of treatment options. Marks explains, in crisp detail, the Gleason score, a way of determining if the cancer is low-grade (the least-dangerous type), intermediate or high-grade (aggressive). The newly diagnosed patient will benefit from chapters such as Your Wife or Partner’s Role, What to tell family and friends, Questions to ask your doctor, and Support groups and resources.

Considering his passion for the subject, Marks, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, recalls that he wasn’t interested in urology when he began his medical career. “Urology was something that I never thought I wanted to go into. I thought it was a stupid field. It made no sense to me.” He even entertained thoughts of being a world-famous endocrine surgeon, or perhaps a plastic surgeon or hand surgeon. His thinking changed when he was in general surgery. Says Marks, “One day…a bunch of my friends gathered around and said ‘Sheldon, you’re really a nice guy, you don’t belong in general surgery, you belong in urology.’” Marks picked urology because, “I didn’t want to be the jack of all trades and know a little bit about a lot, I wanted to know a lot about just my own little world.”

Before writing the book, Marks recalls that “on average, when I diagnosed a man with prostate cancer, it took me 90 minutes of an office consult to go through everything I thought the man needed to know.” He says patients would go home with 20 pages of hand-written notes, which turned into “information overload.” In the early 90s, Marks says he had a discussion with a patient, who was also a prominent publisher. The two talked about publishing a book on prostate cancer. The publisher rejected the idea, noting there was not a market for it. A few months later, the publisher changed his mind, and the first edition of “Prostate and Cancer” came out in June of 1995. Marks recalls that several pharmaceutical companies (in the field of prostate cancer treatment) bought thousands of copies of his book and distributed them to doctors to facilitate doctor-patient discussion. Marks believes patients need a “strong foundation of information” to make intelligent health decisions.

While Marks, who is also the Integrative Urologist for DrWeil.com and Men’s Health and Male Fertility Expert for Webmd, remains optimistic about advances in the treatment of prostate cancer, he acknowledges the difficulty in knowing the right treatment for a man with the disease. He writes: All we can do is use our experience, our knowledge, the literature and a little common sense to make an educated guess about what would be best for each patient.

Every baby boomer guy should have “Prostate and Cancer” on his bookshelf. If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, be sure to share this book with your loved ones. The facts presented in this 358-page book will help your family give you much-needed support.

(Da Capo Press Lifelong Books, Softcover, $17.95)

Available at Amazon.com and major bookstores

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