New York, New York (Daily News) April 16, 2015
Rita Wilson shared some very personal news this week, announcing that she was diagnosed with breast cancer and has since undergone a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
Tom Hanks’ 58-year-old wife said she expects to make a full recovery and return to Broadway next month, which she attributed to excellent doctors who caught the cancer early.
It is good news, and here’s what I hope you will learn from her story: In order to make the best choices, you need to arm yourself with information. In order to get this information, you have to be vigilant. And this information applies equally to men.
Wilson stressed the fact that it was her decision to seek a second opinion that ultimately sparked her action.
It is crucial to note that Wilson initially underwent testing and was told that she didn’t have cancer.
The biopsy results showed atypical “cancer-like” cells, called lobular and pleomorphic carcinoma in situ, that are at high risk of turning into cancer and must be closely monitored.
I don’t know whether the first doctor made the wrong call, but the bottom line is that the second physician reviewed the pathology and realized the cancer was more aggressive than they thought.
“A second opinion is critical to your health,” Wilson wrote in a statement to People magazine. “You have nothing to lose if both opinions match up for the good, and everything to gain if something that was missed is found, which does happen.”
Men who undergo a prostate biopsy can receive a parallel diagnosis, high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, in which prostate cells are atypical but not yet cancerous.
Diagnoses like these warrant a second opinion, just as Rita Wilson sought.
Having another pathologist, or two, review the biopsy and make sure there is no cancer present can only help, never hurt.
Statistically, American men have a higher risk of death compared to American women at every age. This explains why the average life expectancy for men is five years shorter than that of women.
Men are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses than women, and 1.3 times more likely than women to develop cancer, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Men should be more — not less — attentive to their health, since they’re at greater risk.
In reality, in their efforts to be vigilant about healthcare they pale in comparison to women.
Women are driven to be proactive, as we have seen in the cases of Wilson and Angelina Jolie, who underwent preventive surgery for both breat and ovarian cancer case and now in Rita Wilson’s bout with cancer. They are also far better at doing what they need to do for early detection.
Most people are unaware of what I’m about to say, but the truth is that breast cancer and prostate cancer are parallel diseases. The numbers speak for themselves.
This should drive home my point that men need to treat their health seriously — and early detection of prostate cancer is high on that list, because it affects just as many people as breast cancer.
Strong advocates for early detection and patient empowerment — which entails taking responsibility for your own health the way Wilson and Jolie have done — are needed among males.
Jolie and Wilson have set a great example for men, as well as women, to emulate. When it comes to cancer prevention and care, we all need to become our own advocate.
If you aren’t satisfied with your doctor’s recommendation, get another!
As Wilson said, go with your gut.
One last point: Just because your biopsy is negative doesn’t mean you are cancer-free. Sometimes the diagnostic can miss the cancer area; in Wilson’s case, that is the reason why a follow-up biopsy was so critical.
If you have any inkling that what your doctor is telling you may be off base, for whatever the reason, go and see another specialist, get another biopsy, have several pathologists review your results.
Keep on fighting to get the care that you deserve. As a doctor who has seen thousands of people from every corner of the globe, I can tell you without question that patients are much smarter than they give themselves credit for.
Many times, you know what is best for your health and quality of life. You have to learn how to act on that knowledge.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery, and an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for am970 in New York City, where he is heard Sundays at 10 a.m.