PROSTABLOG NZ: While it was a good watch for those of us with a direct interest in prostate cancer, last night’s Larry King Live special programme failed to tackle some of the real issues about the disease.
We heard from a range of famous prostate cancer survivors (always the obvious approach for television) about the necessity of getting yourself tested, but nary a word from the medical bureaucracy which declines to buy in.
No government on earth has agreed to population-based testing for prostate cancer, not even for high-risk sub-groups like African Americans, or Maori.
The reasons for that would have been worth debating on a programme like King’s, whose reach via CNN is global and powerful.
Instead, we got a parade of survivors who said what all survivors (like me) will always say: “If I hadn’t had the PSA and the digital exam I wouldn’t be here today.”
That’s useful, of course, because it puts pressure on the authorities who seem to be unreasonably denying the “test them all” lobby. But it’s useful only in the sense of presenting a polemical argument – that is, one-sided.
If that was the sole objective, it would have been more effective for King to host patients for whom testing was either not done or came too late – those who are dying from prostate cancer.
He mentioned some (like the character who went off to his yacht in the Med rather than face treatment, so subsequently died), but he needed to present such heart-breaking stories via live testimony.
An alarming aspect of the show was some of the survivors didn’t know what they were talking about.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, for example, said he was still monitored – “but there’s nothing to check”.
Uh oh. The Walter Reed Hospital he so fondly plugged at every opportunity need to tell him something about biochemical recurrence. Not helpful, Colin.
The radiation oncologist on the show, Dr Christopher Rose, was impressive and impassive, but seemed conflicted about whether he needed to explain some of the issues more thoroughly. The ephemeral nature of TV defeated him.
Joe Torre, the baseball manager, was the best talent, coming across as a modest, avuncular man who was just counting his blessings. His advocacy for changing diet was very helpful.
The boss of the US Prostate Cancer Foundation, Mike Milken, was an articulate speaker who has learned the priceless lesson of short, succinct sound-bites.
We knew why famous John McEnroe was there, and it certainly wasn’t anything to do with the ability to communicate.
I doubt he finished a sentence. It’s now apparent he spluttered and fumed on the tennis court because he couldn’t make himself understood by all those long-suffering umpires.
Larry King seemed well briefed on prostate cancer, probably because he has addressed the subject many times, as shown in clips of past interviews with various celebrity sufferers “coming out”.
The fact he hosted this hour-long show deserves credit, because if nothing else it helped raise awareness.
Just a pity the opportunity was not taken to wrangle some of the real issues, especially the unresolved question of screening.
Just one last point: why do we persist in using the term “digital examination”?
The non-prostate people, the civilians if you like, who endured the programme with me last night (it finished just before the rugby, luckily) kept asking: “What’s this digital thing? Is it something to do with computers?”
Quite. I guess we’ve never had something called an “analogue” examination.
Can we dispense with the euphemisms and start calling it what it is – a rectal examination.