Wednesday, November 06, 2013

NBC Today will show two hosts undergoing prostate screening; ABC The View and CBS 60 Minutes report on teenager's promising cancer protein test

Matt Lauer and Al Roker will have prostate exams live on the NBC Today show on Thursday Nov. 7, according to a report on (competing) ABC show “The View” this morning (November 6).  The NBC Today story link and details are here.
The other male cast members are apparently letting facial hair grow gray, to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancer, men’s health issues.  But this doesn’t seem to be a “Be Brave and Shave” exercise as a fundraiser.
A PBS film that I reviewed on the Movies blog yesterday (“Money and Medicine”) raises questions as to whether many prostate biopsies (based on PSA screening and probably digital exams) are necessary, and particularly whether treatment (most of all, surgery) is necessary, because significant side effects (incontinence and impotence) often occur, for a tumor that may not become significant for thirty years.  A few clinical subtypes of prostate tumor are aggressive, however.  Benign prostate enlargement, leading to more frequent urination at night, is common in older men.  Aggressive prostate treatment (as with breast cancer treatment) is easier to contemplate for people with strong marriages and family support; for people with weaker social capital, the side effects may outweigh the actual risk of malignant spread.  Such aggressive screening and treatment was not done or thought about when I was growing up.   
Later on “The View” today. 16-year-old Jack Andraka, from the Annapolis, MD area, appeared, and explained his invention of a chemical test for a protein related to early stages of pancreatic carcinoma..  CBS 60 Minutes has an embed from Oct. 13, 2013.  The CBS story (produced by Katy Textor) shows how he did the research at a Johns Hopkins University lab in Baltimore under a professor. There is an anecdote that he and his brother attracted the attraction of the FBI with Internet purchases of chemicals that can be used to make explosives.  That sounds like a variation on the "NSA metadata spying" scandal.

There's another account of the CBS report on Andraka on Blogger here.  I did have my annual medical Medicare appointment (by coincidence, in the Virginia Hospital Center complex in Arlington this morning right after seeing Lauer and Roker on the Today show.  The doctor says that Andraka's protein marker test is similar in concept to a PSA test and should take 2-3 years to get FDA approval.  It's unclear which companies are going to work on it first.  But it is considered big news.

Wikipedia attribution link for medical diagram. 

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