HEALTH SENSE

Prostate cancer

One out of every 11 men will develop prostate cancer. African Americans and those
with fathers who had the disease are at particular risk. The risk also increases
with age, which is why the American Cancer Society urges males over age 50 to be
screened for this often asymptomatic cancer. Men with a family history of the
disease are advised to have their first exam at 40 to 45. Screening involves two
tests, a yearly digital rectal examination and a serum PSA (prostate specific
antigen) blood test.

“Both of these exams will detect prostate cancers at an earlier stage, which
should result in better overall long-term survival,” said Gary Lieskovsky,
professor of urology at the School of Medicine. The two most common sites of
metastases or spreading of the cancer are the pelvic lymph nodes and the
bone. “Patients with high-grade tumors and significant PSA values are scheduled
for a bone scan and a CAT scan or an MRI of the pelvis,” Lieskovsky said, to see
if the disease has spread.

If the cancer is confined to the prostate, patients can opt either for radiation
therapy or a radical prostatectomy. Both have comparable overall survival rates
after five years, although 10 or 15 years later surgery patients tend to have
significantly lower recurrence rates and an improved tumor-free survival rate.

In the event that the cancer has already spread to a significant number of lymph
nodes, the patient is offered, in addition to surgery and radiation, hormonal
therapy. If the cancer has spread to the bone, the disease most likely will
remain in remission for two to five years. “If the patient lives long enough with
advanced disease, the tumor will reactivate,” Lieskovsky said. Investigational
types of protocols such as those available at the USC/Norris would then be
advised.

Survival rates for prostate cancer are generally good, but they depend on the
grade and stage of the tumor at the time of diagnosis. As with all cancers, the
earlier it is detected, the better the chances for survival.

Facial peels

Face lifts have helped turn back the clock for Jackie Onassis, Joan Rivers and
Michael Douglas, to name just a few, but they’re not the best option for
everyone. “A lot of people want a face lift, but with a little liposuction and a
chemical peel, you can get as good an effect as you might with a lift for less
money,” said John F. Reinisch, associate professor of clinical surgery at
Childrens Hospital. A chemical peel won’t help a sagging neck and jaw, but unlike
a face lift it will smooth fine wrinkles, including the vertical lines above the
upper lip that result from sun exposure and smoking.

If you’re considering cosmetic surgery, look for a doctor skilled in a number of
techniques, Reinisch advised. Surgeons experienced in using lasers, peels and
other tools are better able to address a patient’s particular needs.

Gender and Alzheimer’s

In a recent study to be published in Neurology, Victor W. Henderson, associate
professor of neurology in the School of Medicine, and J. Galen Buckwalter,
research assistant professor in the School of Gerontology, looked at the
different patterns of decline in the ways men and women with Alzheimer’s disease
performed various tasks. “We were interested in finding whether Alzheimer’s
disease would affect men and women comparably,” Henderson said. “There is some
evidence that there is a difference and our findings supported this contention.”
For example, women scored significantly lower than men in “naming performance”
the ability to identify drawings of objects by name and also scored lower on
tests that measured verbal fluency and delayed recall. Despite the fact that
healthy women in general and elderly women in particular hold a modest advantage
over men in verbal skills, the researchers found that men retain verbal skills
better than women at least during the early and middle stages of the disease.

New Alzheimer’s drug study

Researcher Lon Schneider, associate professor of psychiatry and neurology, is
currently studying whether Selegeline, a medication used to treat Parkinson’s
disease, may also slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Schneider is
seeking participants for the two- year study. Patients must be 45 or older and
willing to remain in the study until it is completed. For more information, call
224-5463, or 224-5462 for Spanish speakers.

USC physicians on cable

If you want to know all about the latest treatment for common ailments such as
heartburn, arthritis and stroke, tune in to “HealthSense,” a half-hour television
interview program that showcases leading USC physicians. Each week, veteran
health reporter Nancy Davis interviews a USC doctor on a specific medical topic.
This week, Davis will talk about balance disorders with Dennis O’Leary, professor
of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at the School of Medicine and director
of the Center for Balance Disorders at University Hospital. The program will air
Thursday, Sept. 2. Check your local cable listings for times.