I usually don’t like to criticize our health care system. It’s great that it is free for all. But availability: that’s a different story altogether, i.e., waiting a year for an appointment, or four hours in the ER for two stiches. Since it’s Movember, Prostate Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to share a story I heard on the radio last week.
One day, a 40-year-old Hamilton man had a persistent, nagging cough. His family doctor sent him for a chest x-ray. The x-ray did show some opacity, i.e., some areas with an abnormal whitish color vs. the normal dark colored tissue of healthy lungs. The opacity was near the middle of the chest where the two lungs connect. This area is filled with lymph nodes and it is the usual area where cancers develop. So after an X ray, as is the standard procedure, he was sent for a CT (a more detailed picture using many x-ray pictures) of the chest and then for a biopsy. He was told that he has a condition called Sarcoidosis. This is not a dangerous diagnosis, but it requires long term therapy with steroids. However, the cough persisted, and he was sent for a biopsy after a 6-month waiting period. (A biopsy involves going to the lungs through the air pipe with a flexible scope and taking a tissue sample in the area that shows abnormalities on the CT scan.) This time, he was told he has high-grade cancer and his chances of survival are very slim. He and his family were absolutely shocked. Here is a man in his prime, with a wife and very young daughters who are looking forward to very happy lives and many fond memories together — that were about to end.
Time passed and the cough continued but the man did not get sicker. His wife repeatedly told him that he looks healthy and that he is not deteriorating as someone with cancer would be. So he decided to go to the US for a second opinion. Another biopsy was performed and — guess what? No cancer. So he went back to the oncology hospital in Hamilton and was sent for another biopsy after a few months of waiting. He was found to have no cancer. An investigation was initiated and the hospital concluded that his samples were mixed up in the laboratory with the samples of a cancer patient. According to the hospital, the actual cancer patient was also told he has cancer, so that the mix-up involved one patient.
In my opinion, this always happens when you have a one-tier health care system controlled by the government and funded only by taxpayers. Not enough money is allocated by the government to health care, not to mention the shortage of doctors and hospital staff – another money-saver at the patients’ expense. A two-tier system — which involves free social health care for people who can’t afford it and private for people who can— solves this problem. It is essentially the combination of the Canadian and the US system and it has a long proven record in European countries, which are considered to have the best health care systems in the world (e.g., Holland, Norway and Switzerland).
So how does this relate to prostate cancer? For one, every man should begin prophylactic prostate exams at the age of 40 and every year thereafter. This beats being diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 50. The digital rectal exam is very uncomfortable and embarrassing. In Canada the test is always performed manually, simply because it’s cheaper. The problem is that the manual exam is not nearly as precise as when the physician uses an ultrasound probe instead of his finger. However, an ultrasound probe test is more expensive so you will not get it in this country. Solution? You can go to the US, pay $200 and get the ultrasound probe. This test is not nearly as embarrassing, (for obvious reasons), and by going to the US and getting the test done privately, you are drastically reducing the risk of a hospital lab mix-up and consequently a cancer misdiagnosis. Just imagine what would happen if the man from Hamilton had listened to his Canadian doctors. He would undergo unnecessary chemotherapy, radiation, possibly surgery and months — if not years —of psychological trauma.
See you next time.
For more sage advice from Dr. Karol and for natural health product recommendations, visit vitarock.com.
Today I will continue the topic of fertility. All the things that I covered in my first article on the topic in relation to women also apply to men, except of course the increased need for folic acid during pregnancy.
There is one thing that is specific to men. The reason why men have testes (i.e. the site where sperm is produced) outside of the abdominal cavity is because production of sperm requires a slightly lower temperature than normal body temperature. This difference in temperature is only about 2 degrees Celsius, but it is very important. Increasing the temperature by only 1 or 2 degrees can hinder sperm production to the point of infertility. This is why it is important for men not to wear tight underwear. Such underwear keeps the testes close to the rest of the body, thus increasing the temperature of the testes and hindering sperm production.
Today many couples have problems conceiving. If the problem is simply mechanical, there is the option of in vitro fertilization. This process entails extracting an egg from a woman’s ovary and sperm from a man. Then the sperm is then injected into the egg in a laboratory setting. This stimulates the fertilized egg to undergo cellular divisions and this is how life begins. When the egg becomes a ball of cells, it is injected into the uterus of the woman for it to undergo implantation into the uterine wall. Once implanted, it continues its development to become a fetus.
This all sounds great and in fact, it is. But it does not work when there is a problem with either the egg or the sperm. Such problems can be genetic or environmental. When genetic, there is really not much that can be done at the present with the state of our technology. The only options in such cases are to take a healthy sperm or egg from a donor or to adopt a child. If the problem is environmental, it can have many causes that can be eliminated for increased fertility.
In June we have been focusing on Women’s Health, and today’s topic is vaginal health. It is a topic not commonly discussed due to the sensitivity of the subject, but it is very important to know and to openly discuss in a professional manner.
The five major areas of possible concern are yeast infections (medically termed vaginal candidiasis from the name of the yeast that causes it), cervical pre-cancerous and cancerous changes, urinary tract infections, dryness of the vagina during and post menopause, and (usually later in life) possible cancerous changes of the outer vagina.
Let’s start with the yeast infection. It is caused by yeast called Candida albicans. It’s a normal inhabitant of the vagina in most women but normally it is kept in check by the invisible good bacterial flora such as thelactobacilli. When this healthy flora is hindered, the Candida has “room” to multiply and flourish. Continue reading →
For decades we have been exposed to carcinogens called phthalates. They are incorporated into foods, personal care products (including cosmetics), pharmaceuticals (including prescription drugs and especially enteric-coated drugs), lubricants, detergents, building materials and the majority of household cleaning products. These compounds have been introduced into every niche of our environment by being the primary synthetic compound that is used in the plastic industry to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Being as prevalent as plastic is, the phthalates used in plastics have slowly leached into the environment. Phthalates are used to increase the transparency, durability, longevity and flexibility of all of the products mentioned above. Continue reading →
Recently, a very interesting question has been posed to me. Should the mother continue breastfeeding even if she has the flu? The answer to this question is not an easy one because there are pros and cons, and they should both be weighed when deciding whether to breastfeed or not during an influenza infection.
In general, breastfeeding is much better both for the baby and the mother than bottle formula feeding. The reason for this is that, first of all, breast milk is very rich in IgA type antibodies. These general antibodies protect the baby from gastrointestinal infections. Without these antibodies, infections would be very common as the baby’s immune system is not fully developed and is thus vulnerable. A small proportion of these antibodies are also absorbed into the bloodstream of the baby and offer some protection from other infections, such as respiratory infections. But this kind of protection is very limited, so it is a good idea to temporarily switch the baby to bottle formula feeding if the mother is experiencing the flu or any other type of respiratory infection. There are simply not enough IgA antibodies from the breast milk in the baby’s blood to provide significant protection from the influenza virus.