As a young boy growing up, I saw two of my grandfather’s brothers be diagnosed with prostate cancer and develop metastases from it, and ultimately succumb to this disease. This was in the pre-prostate specific antigen (PSA) era. This was at a time when men were still treated with diethylstilbestrol, and treatments for advanced prostate cancer were not available. Had screening been an option at that time, they may have been diagnosed earlier and possibly not suffer the way they did.
PSA is an enzyme that is present in prostatic tissue, and its level in the blood can be measured by simple blood test. It is used to estimate a man’s chances of having prostate cancer based on its level.
From left: Ivan Salvador, Thomas Amaya, Carlos Olvera, Ricardo Kirgan, Cesar Mendoza and Terence Maynard. Photo by Lauren Anderson.
By Carlos Olvera
It’s a question I get asked a lot these days.
Everyone agrees that the mustache is not the best look for me, but not everyone knows the reason behind it. Every November, also known as Movember, men and women join together to raise awareness and funds for men’s health. The Movember Foundation aims to increase early cancer detection, diagnosis and ultimately reduce the number of preventable deaths.
So what triggered my decision to participate in this campaign? Over 15 years ago, my dad was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal, prostate and bladder cancer. He never went for his routine colonoscopy. For years he experienced rectal bleeding but didn’t think much of it. He thought it was just hemorrhoids and he never mentioned the symptoms to his primary care physician.
When Michael Ryan started his own software company, he was thrilled. But the joy of building his own start-up was tempered by his deteriorating health. He was shocked when his local physician diagnosed him with cirrhosis of the liver caused by hepatitis C acquired through a tainted blood transfusion. As his liver disease progressed to a point where his local doctors could not do anything more for him, they recommended that he seek treatment at Rush University Medical Center.
Michael was in the advanced stages of liver failure when he came to Rush. His only chance for survival was a liver transplant. As his health continued to decline, he was unable to work. He was in and out of the hospital for consultations, tests and procedures, and he suffered from mental confusion and memory lapses that can occur in the late stages of liver failure.
After receiving a liver transplant in 2005, he bounced back. Yet he faced an ocean of professional and financial debt. “The business was basically running on its own, and that led to a disaster by the time I got out of the hospital,” says Michael. “I had to shut down the business. With that, the insurance company dropped me because I didn’t have employees anymore.”
The average patient would jump at the opportunity to interview a doctor before choosing to see them in their clinic. I’m kind of lucky. I’ve interviewed more than 400 Rush University Medical Center physicians — and counting.
My company has been contracted by Rush to produce the profile videos that accompany each physician’s Find-a-Doctor online profile. The goal of these videos is to help prospective patients find the doctor who’s right for them by bringing each physician’s credentials and personality to life.
Almost three months after we started this project, my mother emailed me — and my brother and sister — with the kind of news you never want to hear. My father was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer.
Since my parents don’t live in Chicago, I quickly started looking at websites of hospitals in their city. I wanted more information about treating the disease, and — more than anything — I really wanted to see if any of the hospitals had physician profile videos that were similar to the ones we were producing for Rush. Fortunately, one hospital did — and surprisingly they had more videos from urologists than most other specialties (and actually only a handful of the specialties at this hospital even had doctors with videos). I read through the profiles of all of the urologists, but felt more drawn to the ones that included videos. I called my parents and asked them to look at all of these urologists’ profiles.
(Top row, from left) John Meyer, Preston Smith, Neal Khurana, Chris Wickman. (Middle) Dan Jeong, Kumar Madassery, Jack Laney, Paul Lewis. (Bottom) Nabeel Anwar, Christian Malalis, Mehmet Kocak, Ankur Patel. Photos by Lauren Anderson, Rush Photo Group.
Noticed a few more mustachioed medical staff members roaming the Rush corridors? It’s not your imagination. It’s Movember. On behalf of his fellow radiology residents (and a few attending physicians), Kumar Madassery, MD, explains:
All those men out there who have always had a mustache, and may feel slighted by us making mockery of a mustache, let me say we honor and are in awe of you fellow sirs. I don’t think anyone of us can go more than five minutes without feeling the itch or prickly spines of the lip grasses that we have been nurturing. Our hats go off to all of those who wear them all day, every day as part of their natural rugged good looks.
The reason for growing mustaches is that we need something to display our support and awareness of men’s cancers, specifically prostate and testicular cancer. In a sense, prostate cancer is the male version of breast cancer. Statistics from the National Cancer Institute show that between 2005 through 2009, approximately 155 out of every 100,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer. To put that in perspective, the same institution reports in the same period about 124 per 100,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. Men have a 16 percent lifetime risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, and approximately 28,170 men will die in 2012 from it.