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Winthrop University Medical Center Sponsors Men’s Health Conference

June is the month we honor fathers so it was fitting the first Men’s Health Conference on Long Island, was held the Saturday before Father’s Day. Close to 200 men from around the country came to the Garden City Hotel to learn about prostate cancer prevention and treatments, sexual wellness and the role diet plays on cardiac, bone, and prostate health.

In this country, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and it is one of the most common causes of cancer in men. Each year 30,000 men die each year from prostate cancer, a disease that initially remains confined to the prostate gland. Like other slow-growing cancers, this strain of it may initially need minimal treatment or no treatment, unlike others that can spread quickly.

Two physicians, Dr. Aaron Katz, chairman of the department of urology at Winthrop University Medical Center and Dr. Philippa Cheetham from Columbia University Medical Center, co-hosted the event. Both urologists are also authors, and co-host Katz’s Corner a radio show that airs at 7 a.m. every Sunday morning on WABC 77.0 AM.    

Dr. Katz has been previously holding these conferences for the past two years at Columbia University, where he worked. He was thrilled by the turnout and plans to keep this a yearly event on Long Island. In his opening remarks, Dr. Katz discussed the importance of PSA testing which recently came under fire by the United States Preventative Services Task Force that recommends against PSA screening. The urology department chairman adamantly disagrees with the findings of the task force and feels that, “if we don’t do the test we are missing an opportunity to find cancer early on. If you look at the task force, none of the doctors on the committee are urologists; none of them are even cancer specialists. The head of the task force is a pediatrician from Texas.”

Dr. Katz uses a great deal of holistic medicine in his approach to treating prostate cancer and recommends changing up what you eat early on. “I believe that diet, exercise, and supplements are important to prevent men who have early stage prostate cancer from going on to treatment [like] surgery, which can cause erectile dysfunction and incontinence,” he explained. “We recommend men eliminate red meat, fried food, get on pomegranate extract pills, anti-inflammatory herbals [like] Zyflamend, fish oils, lycopene pills and [take up] aerobic exercises. This is a very successful program. Men need to get screened for prostate cancer by the age of 50. I think men need to be informed about the result and what it means, and they need to take on a more active holistic lifestyle to prevent prostate cancer. You need to take care of your body.”

Dr. Philippa Cheetham, who will soon be joining Dr. Katz at Winthrop University Medical Center, is a board-certified urologist and also specializes in robotic surgery. She has written two books, Robotic Prostatectomy for Prostate Cancer—Is It For You? and Living a Better Life After Prostate Cancer—A Survivor’s Guide to Cryotherapy. She discussed how cryotherapy technology has improved over the past 40 years.

“Prostate cryotherapy is a freezing procedure for the prostate where we can treat either the whole prostate or part of the prostate. We can treat patients who have just been diagnosed with prostate cancer or treat patients who have had radiation treatment where the prostate cancer has come back. This is a day procedure, minimally invasive [and] usually takes less than one hour. The patient does not need to stay in the hospital. We recently published our 10-year survival study that shows more than 96 percent 10-year survival in patients we have treated with cryotherapy. The side effects from the treatment are almost nonexistent and we can treat an older population who may not be eligible for surgery. This doesn’t require anesthesia and it is very well-tolerated by the patient with very good results.”

Along with the comprehensive lectures there were also displays and literature available for attendees. One of the more unusual exhibits was the DaVinci, a robotic device used in prostate surgery. Guests were able to try their skills at this new age device. Dr. Ketan Badani, chief of the robotic surgery department at Columbia University Medical Center has been using the device for the past 10 years. The 38-year-old physician showed a film to the audience of an actual surgery performed by the robot and later shared his thoughts on this new way of operating.

“The one thing about the DaVinci technology is that it allows you to be ambidextrous. I can’t sign my name with my left hand but I can throw stitches with DaVinci with my left hand as if it is my right hand. I think that has to do a lot with the hand eye coordination that comes with gaming. My generation did some gaming. I grew up with video games but not the technical 20 button video games, where kids are pressing all 10n fingers at different times. Their coordination between what’s happening on the screen and their fingers is phenomenal. It will be interesting to see this generation grow up and start using these technical skills,” Dr. Badani said. He later invited a group of seventh-grade science students to work on the DaVinci and was amazed at the dexterity they exhibited when tested on it.

Several of the men attended the conference with their physician. One of them was Chicago native Joe N., who came with his doctor. Joe is 45 years old and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He changed his diet, eliminating all red meats, and went on a pescaterian diet of fish, vegetables, fruits and vitamin supplements.

“I’ve been on this for the past five months with very good results. My PSA went down from a 5.5 to a 3.7. The reason I brought my physician is because he is a holistic physician. This is such a complex issue [that] its nice to have a second educated perspective because no one is going to take your own health as seriously as you will, except maybe your physician, [which is] why he came.”

The event at the Garden City Hotel gave many men a chance to mingle with peers who had prostate cancer, learn about options available to them for treatment and to interact with physicians one on one. Dr. Katz was very pleased with the outcome of this year’s event. “I think the turnout here was fantastic, I’m thrilled. This is our first year doing it here at Winthrop. It’s an outstanding turnout and it just shows the great support we are getting and the leadership at Winthrop urology. We are going to have this every year in Garden City and we are going to continue to expand it and continue to be the lead educators for men’s health in the area,” he said.