My urologist, Dr. Aaron Katz, has written a stellar book. Much more than a compendium of useful facts, his latest publication is a milestone in collecting, categorizing, and presenting the varied and often elusive information on prostate cancer and other prostate ailments.
For the newly diagnosed, it brings clarity to the breadth and depth of considerations that give patients solid ground on which to stand while making their decisions. For the previously treated (and often mistreated, sometimes horribly) he supplies new directions which join hope for the future with corrections (where possible) for the past. For the vulnerable (or "at risk" in medical speak), he provides clear directives on how to minimize, if not eliminate, the likelihood of incurring prostate cancer. For all, it reads with the same cadences of caring that I and his other patients hear when he counsels us.
His task is not easy. Long known as the "great imposter" of malignancies for its elusiveness in diagnosis and the will o' the wisp character of its treatment methods, prostate cancer confuses as it frightens-often producing a paralysis of fear which can leave afflicted men vulnerably exposed to unsuitable treatments and totally unaware of better alternatives.
Underlying all this, of course, are the twin major side effects of sexual dysfunction and urinary incontinence which provide non-stop anxiety attacks.
The reader of this book will benefit enormously from the superb detail with which Dr. Katz walks you through the entire diagnostic process, letting you know what diagnostic procedures can and can't do, giving a truly clear description of PSA ambiguities, and sharing with you his thinking as a practitioner when faced with unclear symptoms and cloudy diagnostic information.
Following diagnosis, including extent of cancer (Stage) and its aggressiveness (Gleason Score), Dr. Katz leads you through the labyrinths (yes, there is more than one) of deciding upon which treatment methods you will decide are appropriate for your situation.
In that respect, he gives one of the clearest short explanations of "Integrative Medicine" that you will ever see. Briefly, all medicine should be "evidence based". What we normally call "mainstream medicine" (more technically "allopathic medicine") aims to fix what's wrong. "Holistic medicine" begins by looking at a person as a whole, not just the bearer of a specific disease or injury, and attempts to heal by working in multiple dimensions. "Alternative medicine" includes specific "non-mainstream" disciplines as Naturopathy, Chinese Herbal Medicine, and Ayurvedic Medicine whose chief claim is to help the body heal itself, often in conjunction with specific dietary directives.
Other cancers require more aggressive treatment methods such as surgery, radiation, or cryosurgery.
But whatever fits your circumstances is something which evidence shows is effective in terms of curative impact and provision for good quality of life (i.e. freedom from major side effects). And that evidence is drawn from the entire spectrum of treatment methods, not just those favored by one school of thought.
Dr. Katz is remarkable in stating his own biases and preferences clearly, while providing the reader with more than adequate information to decide if he is comfortable with the Katz approach or prefers another path. The book is saturated with the respect that the author has for patients and their care givers to participate fully and on an equal basis with any physician of their choice, and sees to it that those patients and care givers have the knowledge and the confidence to play their roles in the decision-making process.
Dr. Katz's most transformative contributions, which benefit both professionals and "ordinary" people, lie in his specifications for dietary practices, his detailed account of which nutritional supplements have satisfied the evidence-based criteria of his Center's clinical trials, and his recommendations for exercise and mind-body practices. Healthy diets, exercise, and stress reduction are not just good to prevent cancer and to assist in its treatment, but also to produce good heart and general health. Imagine how much happiness could be produced by preventing significant numbers of cancers, heart disease, and diabetes!
If these "preventive" methods succeed in your never getting prostate cancer, you may still find yourself with a benign but painfully swollen prostate (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or "BPH") or an infected prostate (Prostatitis). Here too, Dr. Katz provides clear and comprehensive information for diagnosis and treatment.
For now, his book is just what its title indicates it is: a definitive guide to both prostate cancer and methods to treat it (or hopefully to prevent it). Buy it with confidence for yourself and for those you love. Urge your primary care physician to read it and perhaps to recommend it to his or her patients, or even to stock it for them in the waiting room.
Looking to the future, I hope that he and his Center produce materials with comprehensive diet plans for a variety of situations-families, couples, and singles. There is still a lot to do to help people transform what they eat to promote health, and recipes for taste and flavor, portions for smaller living units (couples and singles) can help quite a bit.