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Ask the Prostate Cancer Expert: How Is Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Evolving?

Ask the Prostate Cancer Expert: How Is Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Evolving? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

 What should prostate cancer patients, care partners, and underserved patients know about? Watch as expert Dr. Yaw Nyamefrom the University of Washington shares insight about prostate cancer detection, screening guidelines, specific concerns for Black men, support groups, and clinical trials to work toward better health outcomes for all. 

See More From Best Prostate Cancer Care No Matter Where You Live


Related Resources:

How Has the Onset of Prostate Cancer Evolved?


Transcript:

Sherea Cary: 

Hello, we are here with Dr. Nyame. I have a few questions for you. Dr. Nyame, how has prostate cancer evolved over the last decade regarding the onset of the disease, the population in which it impacts the care and the treatment? 

Dr. Nyame: 

You know, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men that is in a solid organ. It affects about one in nine men over their lifetime, and probably the biggest advance or change we’ve seen in the disease occurred in the late ‘80s with the introduction of the PSA test. What that allows us to do is detect cancers very early in their natural life history, if you will, and that gives us the opportunity really to provide treatment when there’s…with an opportunity for cure. The downside to that is not all prostate cancers are the same, we know that some prostate cancers are diseases that men will die with and not from…meaning that some of these cancers that we detect don’t need any treatment or intervention. This means that a lot of research that has occurred in the last decade or two has been focused on helping us determine which cancers deserve treatment and which ones we can watch safely and so some of the biggest advances have been diagnostic tests such as radiology imaging, so we’ve seen things like MRI really come into the mainstay of prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment upfront. We have very exciting nuclear medicine scans. 

So, you might hear the term PSM-A as a new test that’s really going to disrupt and change the way the prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment is made. We also have genetic testing that we can do on blood samples, urine samples, and tissue, that might give us some very exciting information about one’s risk of dying from prostate cancer, which ultimately is what we want to know when we’re offering treatment to someone.  

Sherea Cary: 

Thank you. What screening test or risk-reducing care would you suggest for men who have a family history of prostate cancer, and at what age should screening begin for specific populations?  

Dr. Nyame: 

Unfortunately, there is no data, rigorous data to help answer this question, but we know that men that have a high risk of developing prostate cancer benefit from earlier testing with PSA. We know this from a variety of studies, including some modeling studies, which we have done here at the Fred Hutch Cancer Center at the University of Washington. When I talk about high-risk groups, it really falls into two categories, men who have a strong family history and a strong family history means a first-degree relative, father, brother, grandfather that has prostate cancer. 

But when we look at the genetics of prostate cancer it’s not just about prostate cancer itself, what we have found is that things that lead to family histories of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer also increase your risk of prostate cancer, for instance, the BRCA gene, which is a breast cancer gene is associated with a marked increased risk of prostate cancer. So, knowing your family history matters and knowing it beyond prostate cancer is important. The other high-risk group as men of African descent or ancestry, we know our black men have a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer in their lifetime, it’s about a one in six or one in seven risk compared to one in nine in the general population. So, the recommendation I make for these two groups is to consider screening earlier and to do it more frequently. On average, PSA screening happens for men between the ages of 55 and 70 or 74, and it’s usually every two years, if you look at the population level data, I would suggest that you consider screening at age 45 or 40 and doing it every year, however, you’ve got to turn the screening off at some point. So, if your PSA stays low and is non-concerning into your early 70s, then I think you can be reassured that your risk of having a fatal or aggressive cancer is low, and you could safely stop screening. 

 Sherea Cary:

Thank you. So, for someone who has a first degree relative such as a father who had prostate cancer and maybe even an aggressive form of prostate cancer, it will be important for them to get screened at 40 to start at least having a baseline number to be able to watch it? 

Dr. Nyame: 

Absolutely. The baseline number is really a topic of discussion in the urologic community because we know that if you get a PSA at age 40 and its above one or above the median for your age group, that you’re a lifetime risk of having what we call significant cancer, so that’s a cancer that might have the potential to be fatal in your lifetime is higher, and so theoretically, you could get that one-time PSA at 40 and use that as a basis for how intense your screening practice would be. I’ve talked about PSA testing, but screening also involves the digital rectal exam, and it’s important that men understand that both those things together is what leads to a thorough and good clinical evaluation, when it comes to prostate cancer risk. 

Sherea Cary:

Thank you so much for sharing the information about the BRCA gene as well. I’ve heard information about the BRCA gene, but I always hear it in relation to women, I’ve never heard it in relation to a connection with prostate cancer. 

That is very interesting to know. What does a multi-discipline approach to prostate cancer look like? 

Dr. Nyame:

Well, when you think about prostate cancer and how it’s diagnosed and how it’s treated, you’re talking about a process that involves a team, the process often starts with your primary care physician, he or she may order a PSA test, which will prompt a biopsy if it’s positive, so that’s the step one is that relationship you have with your primary care physician. Step two is going to be your urologist, that’s the person that’s going to do your biopsy, and if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer that person in conjunction with your primary care physician is then going to be leading this process of, do we actively watch your cancer because it’s a low risk, or do we seek treatment because it’s localized, meaning it’s in the prostate and we can still get your treatment with curative intent as we call it, or has it spread? And in that case, your options for a doctor is different on the watch side, you’re probably looking at a urologist who’s watching closely, on the localized side, you’re going to talk to maybe a radiation specialist or a urologist because both treatments are equal and their effectiveness from cancer treatment. 

But they have different side effects. And I think to get good information about what treatment is best for you, you should see both, and then on the advanced side, you’re talking about medical oncologist that’s going to help navigate all of the various treatments that we have now for stage IV prostate cancer, and even in that setting, you might still find yourself considering a clinical trial with someone like a urologist or getting radiation treatment, which can be standard of care in select patients that have stage IV cancer. So as you can see, it is a very wide range of individuals that are helping take care of your cancer, and that’s just on the treatment side, that’s not talking about any of the other supportive services that you may need that may exist either in your community or in your health systems where you’re getting treated, and those can include patient navigators, social workers, the various nursing services, nutritionists, there’s a lot of people that you may want to put on your team as you’re considering your care. 

Sherea Cary: 

Thank you. So, some people may consider prostate cancer a couples’ disease. What advice would you give to a care partner? My father was a prostate cancer survivor, my mother was very supportive of him, but I took much of the lead as far as being his caregiver and coordinating things between my father, his doctor’s appointments, and with my siblings. 

Do you believe that support people, caregivers, such as children, are able to also assist in receiving care? 

Dr. Nyame: 

Absolutely. The data is overwhelming in this scenario, patients who are partnered or have strong social support do better, and I always say that the patients who have the best outcomes when it comes to cancer, have someone like you, Sherea in their life. It’s not surprising, given the burden of cancer treatment, that having someone that can help navigate all the aspects of your care and be there to support you leads to better outcomes and better satisfaction with the treatments that you choose, a cancer diagnosis, especially prostate cancer diagnosis, a disease that has a very high cure rate, has a very long lifespan, but has really life-altering potential consequences of the treatments you received, has an impact on what we return your survivorship. So how do you live with your cancer, and so the individuals that are there to support you through that journey are absolutely critical. 

Sherea Cary: 

Thank you. What differences do you see in terms of aggressiveness for cancers in different… Various populations?  

Dr. Nyame: 

This is an area of research that for me, is trying to understand why certain populations have more aggressive or worse outcomes when it comes to prostate cancer. 

The most obvious example of this here in the United States is for black men. Black men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, so about 70% more likely to be diagnosed and they are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as men of other races in the United States. If you look at what the natural history of prostate cancer and Black men looks like, meaning if you were to chart from diagnosis through the course of the disease, does it look different for black men? The answer is yes,, it appears of Black men get prostate cancer when they’re younger, and there’s data to suggest that perhaps Black men get more aggressive prostate cancer because they’re more likely to progress from the localized or treatable disease to stage IV aggressive disease that can’t be treated. We don’t understand what the drivers of that are for a long time, the medical community has suggested that it’s all biology, and by that may be an inherited biology, but we know that health disparities really carry a significant social contribution, and in fact, I like to say that social and environmental factors inform biology too, and so if we see something biologic that explains these trends, it doesn’t mean that that’s the way they were born, it might mean that you put someone in a community that lives near a highway with high pollution or does not have access to clean water or lives in a state of high stress or over security, we don’t know what the biologic manifestations of those types of experiences are, but that perhaps is the reason why we see our communities of color, especially our Black men, experiencing a higher burden of prostate cancer. 

Sherea Cary:

So, is there a push to have African-American men tested earlier with the PSA test, since it appears that they may get prostate cancer earlier?  

Dr. Nyame: 

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, which makes a recommendation to the medical community about prostate cancer screening states that they cannot make a specific recommendation about screening in black men and other high-risk populations like men with a strong family history of prostate cancer, because those men were not included in the clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of PSA testing for screening. 

Unfortunately, black men make up 3 percent or less of participants in the two screening trials that have informed whether there’s a benefit to PSA testing, which there has been shown to be a 20 percent decrease in dying from prostate cancer if you get screened. We recently took data from the screening trials and superimposed them on real-world data from our surveillance apparatus for cancer in the United States, and what we found was that if you did lower the age of screening in Black men from age 55 to 45, that you did decrease the risk of dying from prostate cancer significantly. It is our hope that this type of research will encourage the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and other medical societies to reconsider their screening recommendation for black men, ultimately, whatever, if there is a recommendation made to screen at younger ages, I think we need to be conscientious and evaluate what the impact is on the ground, so that if there is a time where we need to reverse a recommendation like that because it’s potentially harmful, that we consider that, but I feel strongly sitting here today that we do need to advocate for earlier screening and black man. 

Sherea Cary:

What advice do you have for prostate cancer patients about locating a clinical trial. Where can you find one? 

Dr. Nyame: 

Clinical trials tend to happen at the big cancer centers and the big academic university centers, although many of those programs will have affiliate partners out in the community. The easiest way to learn about clinical trials is to start by asking the physician that’s treating you for your prostate cancer, oftentimes, they’ll have resources and connections to the trials directly or are the people who are administering them; however, other great sources are going to be patient advocacy networks, and there are many of them for prostate cancer, there’s one… There are several, I’ll start naming a few. They have the Prostate Cancer Foundation, you have Us TOO, you have zero cancer, you have a PHEN, Prostate Health Education Network, which is an advocacy group for black men with prostate cancer. So these are all great sources of finding out what clinical trials exist, and in addition, you can just get on the Internet and Google if that’s something you have access to, the trick is navigating all the information, and I think knowing what trials are available for you, whether you qualify, that kind of thing can be difficult, and that’s ultimately where finding a provider, whether it’s your direct urologists or radiation oncologist or whoever is helping treat your prostate cancer, either them directly or sometimes seeking a second opinion, and going to a place where you might find someone who has some expertise in trials, if that’s something that you’re interested in.  

Sherea Cary: 

My father participated in a clinical trial, it was going on, I think the time of his treatment, and it was offered to us, and he was at a big facility here in Houston that offered…ask him if he wanted to participate. We did a lot of research. We said we’d try it. And we were glad to be able to participate. I participated in clinical trials also for different health conditions, ’cause I believe it’s important that we have to participate in order for our people to gather the information that’s necessary. So thank you for that. 

Dr. Nyame: 

Absolutely, you know I think there are a lot of reasons that we think that our black community, for instance, may not participate in a clinical trial given the history of medical experimentation and various forms of abuse that have existed in our history, but what I recently heard from our partner of our community partners at PHEN, when they surveyed black men about prosecutor clinical trials, was that although there was some concern about trust in the history, that the overwhelming majority of the men wanted to participate, but they never were asked, and that’s really stuck with me, and I think that black men are under-represented in clinical trials, and we have to find ways to be more inclusive and understand what barriers might exist into participation so that we can have that data to care better for the population. 

Sherea Cary: 

Thank you so much for spending time with us today. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge. 

Essential First Aid Tips For Cancer Caregivers

First aid is an essential skill — however, 70% of Americans feel unprepared for a cardiac emergency because they either don’t know how to administer CPR or their training has significantly lapsed. It’s important for caregivers of cancer patients to be trained in first aid, so they’re fully-prepared and ready to act in emergency situations. This includes knowing how to administer CPR, looking out for the common signs of infection, and helping patients manage the emotional symptoms of cancer.

Administering CPR

Chemotherapy damages healthy cells in the body, including cells in and near the heart. As a result, cardiac toxicity and conditions like arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy (the heart struggling to send blood around the body), angina (chest pain), and myocarditis (inflammation of the muscular layer of the heart wall) can occur. In these situations, a cancer patient may need CPR, which, if unsuccessful, may need to be followed up with an AED (automated external defibrillator). An AED can help restart the patient’s heart and re-establish the natural rhythm of the heartbeat. First aid training is essential for anyone caring for cancer patients as it covers how to administer CPR correctly. Caregivers should also inform themselves of the patient’s resuscitation wishes in advance.

Preventing infection

Cancer and cancer treatment weakens the immune system, which in turn increases a patient’s risk of infection. Additionally, cancer patients can have a low white blood cell count (neutropenia), which further weakens the body’s ability to fight infection. Symptoms of infection to look out for in cancer patients can include: fever, sore throat, shortness of breath, belly pain, and chills potentially followed by sweating. In this case, caregivers should check the patient’s temperature with a thermometer, keep the patient hydrated, and help them take their medication on schedule. If the patient has a high or low temperature, can’t take fluids, or simply doesn’t seem “right,” take them to the emergency room and let the staff know they’re in treatment for cancer.

Emotional first aid

One third of all cancer patients experience high levels of mental or emotional distress that meets the strict diagnostic criteria for mental disorders, including depression or anxiety. As such, emotional first aid becomes an important part of caring for cancer patients and their emotional health. In particular, anxiety can result in shortness of breath, hyperventilation, and chest pain. It’s therefore essential to learn deep breathing techniques to help affected patients stay as calm and pain-free as possible. Alternatively, depression can manifest symptoms like low mood, irritability, insomnia, excess sleepiness, and suicidal thoughts. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of depression and begin an open dialogue with the affected individual to provide them with support and treatment if necessary.

First aid knowledge and skills are an essential part of caring for people with cancer. It’s important caregivers have the right first aid training, knowledge, and skills to help patients in emergency situations.

The Nitty Gritty on Care Partnering

For those of us who are sometimes patients, and at other times care partners, it can be useful to have a checklist to make helping a friend or family member navigate cancer treatment, or treatment for any other medical condition.

Here’s a short list that can be used in any patient-with-a-bedside-care-partner situation. If you have any ideas for things that would be good to add, hit me up via @MightyCasey, or shout out to @Power4Patients, on Twitter.

Here we go.

  • Make sure you – the care partner – have been named in your patient buddy’s Advance Directive as the person who can speak for your friend when they can’t speak for themselves due to intubation, anesthesia, or loss of consciousness. Here’s a handy link with downloadable forms to create an Advance Directive in all 50 US states.
  • Since you’ll be speaking for your friend in situations where they can’t speak for themselves, it’s critical that you know what their wishes are in scenarios from “coming out of anesthesia” to possible life support situations. What are your friend’s wishes? These are sometimes tough conversations, since facing mortality isn’t something humans are naturally wired to do. Two tools that can help you and your friend figure out the what-ifs for their wishes are Engage With Grace and The Conversation Project. Pick one, get started.
  • Do you have access to your buddy’s patient portal? Most EHR software platforms have “share” utilities where you can share your record with a care partner. Get that organized early in the care partnering process, so you can be able to answer questions about medications and patient history when your friend can’t speak for themselves.
  • Speaking of medication lists, make one. It can be as simple as a notes file on your phone, or a printed sheet that you can refer to, and copy, for anyone who needs it. Update it as/if medications are added to your friend’s list. Make sure you have dosages and timing for all of them on that sheet or in that note file, too.
  • Is surgery involved in the treatment plan? If so, make sure you and your buddy keep a calendar of pre-op testing requirements – blood work, scans, and so forth. A shared Google calendar can be a great tool here, or you could go old-school and just use a wall calendar with large blocks to write on each day.
  • Will you need durable medical equipment (DME) during the treatment and recovery process? DME is stuff like wheelchairs, walkers, knee scooters, woundVAC systems. You can either buy or rent this gear. Pro tip: Amazon and Walmart pricing on this stuff is much less than from a traditional medical supply house.
  • On that supplies front, there might also be what are called “expendables” required: bandages, wound wraps, bandage tape, wound packing material, and so forth. Another pro tip: if you need to buy this stuff, Amazon is the medical supply house with all the best deals. What costs you $40 at the local drugstore will cost you $8-10 or less on Amazon.
  • Will home health care be part of your friend’s recovery? Working with the Nurse Care Manager at the hospital or health system where your buddy’s getting care, get a list of reputable home health agencies in your geographic area, and interview them. Asking questions about how they coordinate care across nursing, occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT) sessions. Recent personal experience here is that a home care agency that has a system in place for “who’s on next” and “when are they coming” that’s left in the patient’s home, useable by them (the patient) and the home care crew is who you want to hire.

Care partnering with someone isn’t something to be taken lightly – if a friend asks you to do it for them, it’s a mark of how much they trust you. If you’re someone facing a Big Medical Adventure, figure out who you trust enough to walk with you through that adventure, making decisions that align with your wishes when you can’t speak for yourself. It’s one of the most human acts of kindness you can perform, care partnering.

The Importance of Caregivers

In honor of November being National Family Caregivers Month, we wanted to highlight the importance of family caregivers. A family caregiver is a person who provides any type of physical and/or emotional care for an ill or disabled loved one at home. Loved ones in need of care include those suffering from a physical or mental illness, disability, substance misuse or other condition. In most cases, the primary caregiver is a spouse, partner, parent or adult child. Caregivers often take on the responsibilities of the patient while still providing for themselves and other family members. Some important tasks and roles of a caregiver are:

Advocate. Sometimes patients are not completely forthcoming with their physical or emotional needs and tend to downplay their pain when speaking with doctors. Caretakers play an important role in honest communication between doctors and patients by upholding patient preferences for treatment options when the patient cannot or will not speak for him or herself.

Personal Care. Caregivers may help with daily activities such as dressing, bathing, toileting, or arranging child care.

Household Tasks. Caregivers are often in charge of preparing meals, doing chores or laundry, shopping for groceries or paying bills.

Emotional Support. When faced with a serious diagnosis, patients are often overwhelmed by the emotional and physical turmoil. Caregivers are tasked with the important duty of providing support and encouragement for the patients as well as themselves. Communication is key in the relationship between a caregiver and a patient. It is important to both openly share feelings and remain empathetic to the situation.

Medical Care. Caregivers must be present, take notes, ask questions and assist loved ones in making decisions with the care team. They may also be responsible for administering, ordering, and picking up medication, providing transportation to appointments, and dealing with scheduling, billing, or insurance issues. Caregivers may also assist with other medical processes such as physical therapy, injections, feeding tubes, etc.

There are close to 65 million caregivers in this country alone. The estimated monetary value of family caregivers’ unpaid contributions was estimated $450 billion in 2009, though the true value of caregivers far exceeds any monetary worth. In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, we would like to thank all of those who aid in the care of those in need.

Resources for Caregivers: National Alliance for Caregiving


References:

http://www.netofcare.org/content/getting_started/

http://www.cancer.org/treatment/caregivers/copingasacaregiver/if-youre-about-to-become-a-cancer-caregiver

8 Beliefs That Can Hold Caregivers Back (from reaching out for help)

Family caregivers too often suffer from two very common things: overwhelm and isolation. Or, to it put another way, exhaustion and loneliness. So often, the nature of illness and trauma not only disrupts our normal ways of living, but also disrupts our connections with people who care about us. Caregivers who reach out for support gain the benefits of lessening their burdens and of feeling the warmth provided by people who care.

Too often, caregivers hold back from reaching out because of beliefs they have about doing so:

  •  Nobody else can do what I do for my loved one.
  •  My loved one won’t accept help from anyone but me.
  •  I’m too busy to even begin to think about doing anything more – even reaching out.
  •  The moment I start reaching out, our family will lose our privacy.
  •  I’m afraid of imposing on people.
  •  Reaching out shows weakness; doing it yourself shows strength.
  •  I’m afraid that nobody will come forward to help me.
  •  Since I’m able to handle things now, I’ll be able to continue to do so.

These, beliefs, while completely understandable and very common, are neither healthy for you as a caregiver or for your loved one. They get in the way of your resilience and your capacity to sustain yourself for however long your caregiving is required. Each week, I will be focusing in on one of these self-limiting beliefs and invite you to come along with me in exploring those that you are now willing to let go of and change into ones that help you not only survive, but thrive.

So let’s get started:

Nobody else can do what I do for my loved one

Think of the whole range of “things” you are currently doing. First think of the practical ones: dressing, managing and administering the meds, shopping, preparing, serving and cleaning up after meals, assisting with bathing and toileting, and so on. Now focus on the emotional and spiritual ones – showing love, being a trusted confidant, giving emotional support and comfort, etc.

Nobody else can do these things exactly how you’re doing them or would your loved one experience them in the same way if they were done by people other than you. No one else is so attuned to your loved one’s needs and preferences and, most likely, your loved one is most receptive to your way of doing these things. And, no one else would be as committed to your loved one’s comfort and be as vigilant as you are. This much is true.

But, the trap here is believing that, since no one else can do things the way you do, that no one else can do them or do them satisfactorily for you and your loved one.

Let’s take a look at some of those practical things that I listed above. Take one area for starters, e.g. grocery shopping. These days, it’s not like the days when our mothers used to look the butcher in the eye and tell him she wants a better cut of meat than the way he did it last week. Shopping simply means meal planning, list making and going out and getting the groceries – all very delegatable tasks. When you think about, I think you’ll agree that many if not most of the practical things can be done by others. Not necessarily with your intimate knowledge and way of doing things, but in their own ways. And, similarly, other people will bring their own and distinctly different ways of providing emotional and spiritual support as well.

Bottom line: Is this a belief you’ve been holding? If so, how does it serve you? How does it hinder you? How might you re-write that belief so that it serves you better? For example, “There are some things that other people can help with. I’m going to try this out with some simple things.” What practical step can you take to try out that new belief this very week? Let us know – by commenting on this blog. You’ll help yourself and other caregivers by doing so.