Dr. Drew Pinsky
David Drew Pinsky was born in September of 1958 in Pasadena, California. His father was a physician, which influenced Pinsky’s interest in becoming an internist. After graduating from med school at the University of Southern California, Pinsky’s health and sex education earned him acclaim, as a host of a 1990s radio show called Loveline.
In this program, he answered callers’ questions on love, sex, health and relationships in a well-research and candid manner. Loveline’s popularity grew, carrying over into a website, a book and, eventually, an-MTV spin-off, which aired in 1996.
With Loveline, Pinsky had tapped a market of curious individuals eager to learn, a market to which he still caters today, using his HLN show and his prominence as a way to spread awareness to men about the importance of early prostate cancer detection. As of September 2014, he was named to the Board of Directors with the Prostate Cancer Foundation as well.
While hosting Loveline, Pinsky developed and interest and became certified in addiction medicine, leading the chemical dependency unit at Las Encinas Hospital in Pasadena. Pinsky’s knowledge of chemical dependency and addiction medicine landed him a 2008 reality series called Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which gave viewers a glimpse of celebrities undergoing addiction treatments.
In 2012, celebrity author, television host, and MD David Drew Pinsky – known as Dr. Drew – returned from a vacation feeling ill. At first, he wrote it off as something that would pass, but when he continued to feel unwell, his wife encouraged him to see a doctor.
At this visit, Pinsky discovered that his PSA levels were elevated, and was treated for prostatitis, a common cause of elevated PSA levels. After these treatments were unable to fix the problem, Pinsky went in for a biopsy, where he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
For two years, his doctor followed a policy of “active surveillance” to monitor the cancer. Frequent biopsies and close monitoring of PSA levels were used to keep an eye on the cancer and to see if it continued to grow.
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For most men with low-grade prostate cancer, active surveillance is the most recommended for of treatment; however, Pinsky’s physician became alarmed when his PSA levels continued to rise, and suggested that Pinsky undergo a radical robotic prostatectomy.
A radical prostatectomy is a procedure in which the prostate and the surrounding tissue are removed. In some cases, a surgeon may also remove the lymph nodes in areas affected by the cancer to ensure that it has not spread. A radical robotic prostatectomy uses robotic extensions to perform the surgery, and often results in less blood loss, little nerve damage, and faster recovery times for patients.
Dr. Drew Pinsky’s story is common for many men. On his website, Dr. Drew says that, at 53 (his age at the time of prognosis), he believed he wasn’t at risk, despite a medical history of prostate cancer in his family.
He goes on to let men know that, all too often, there are no symptoms of prostate cancer, and advocates for early screening, stating: “At 40, every man should get a prostate exam.”
The Pinsky Approach
Pinsky also stresses that the treatments for prostate cancer are not one-size-fits-all. While some men may need to undergo a radical prostatectomy for their cancer, other tumors grow slowly and may be confined to just one part of the prostate gland.
As Pinsky notes, radicalized prostatectomy can be a “brutal” option for some men. Concerns over side effects range, from erectile dysfunction to bladder incontinence. While Pinsky’s option to undergo surgery left him cancer free and fully recovered – he went back to work ten days after the surgery – this surgery may not be for everyone.
We recommend taking Pinsky’s advice and taking your prostate cancer diagnosis on an individual basis, and walking through your options thoroughly with your doctor.
Here are a few things to consider when determining which type of treatment might be right for you:
- Get checked: By now we sound like a broken record, but it is imperative that you get checked early and you continue to schedule checkups, especially if there is a history of prostate cancer in your family. Early detection can be the key to avoiding invasive surgeries like radical prostatectomies.
- Tumor size: The old adage is “size does not matter” and, in the case of prostate cancer tumors, this is partly true. You could end up with a large tumor that is confined to one part of your prostate gland or you could have a small tumour that rapidly spreads. Many people tend to correlate tumor size with the grade of the cancer and this is not always the case. Instead of looking at size and panicking, you should be focused on growth. Your doctor will be upfront and honest with you about the rate of growth of your cancer. If it is rapidly growing and spreading, your treatment options will differ from the options for men with slowly growing or confined tumors.
- PSA levels: While PSA tests aren’t always accurate, they can be used as a benchmark to monitor the growth of cancer. Many things can cause elevated PSAs, including certain medications and prostatitis. However, if you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the rate at which your PSA levels rise can indicate and increase in the aggressiveness of the cancer. Active surveillance monitoring of prostate cancer will give you and your physician the best picture of your prognosis. Remember: PSA levels alone are not enough to give you the whole picture, rather, they help comprise the details that can help determine the best course of treatment.
- Gleason Score: Your PSA numbers aren’t the only factors that are used to determine the severity of your cancer. Your Gleason Score is comprised of two numbers: a primary and a secondary number that, when combined, indicate the stage and prognosis of your cancer, and can be instrumental in helping you and your doctor set a course for treatment.
- Side effects: According to Dr. Pinsky, men are “concrete in thinking about [radical prostatectomies].” The possibilities of erectile dysfunction, nerve damage, and urinary incontinence tend to scare men away from undergoing a radical prostatectomy. However, with innovations in prostatectomy surgery, the impact on nerves and function are minimal. Be sure to talk with your doctor and take the time to research your surgeon and all of the possible side effects and the innovations in their treatments.
- Research: We have mentioned research several times in this article, but it is an often overlooked process when deciding on a course of treatment for prostate cancer. ““You don’t go to doctors for their knowledge. You go to doctors for their judgment, their instinct, what to do, how to make the right call,” says Pinsky. All too often men let their doctors decide the course of their treatments without speaking up and presenting other options. By thoroughly understand every course of action available to you, you will be able to proactively participate in a dialogue about your treatment options, and you may be presented with options that you haven’t thought about.