what’s wrong with the reports of Chavez having prostate cancer-prostate cancer message boards and news reporting of medical issues?

"Never let your memories be greater than your dreams." - Doug Ivester

It is surprising to me how often news reports are so off and misinformed when it comes to medical reporting in general and prostate cancer reporting in particular. A few weeks ago they reported about a man having incidentally being found to have prostate cancer in his femur. It then was reported that he then had the prostate removed and now is cured. Well…what’s wrong with that. Well, if prostate cancer is in the bone, for one you don’t then remove the prostate and number two you will not be cured. In general in this case, the patient would be started on hormonal therapy and hope for a regression of the disease and lowering of a most probable very high PSA.

This may anger some…but the prostate cancer message boards are very similar to this. You’ll see a comment by a random person writing in with a question like this,” I am 58, my PSA is 12, I am told my bone scan is positive. What do ya’ll think I should do?” There are well-intentioned other members of the message board that will respond…some very prudently , but more often than not there will be bold advice with specific recommendations based on what the responder did and how he fared. What do you think about that?  Where is the doctor? Are doctors so bad that you don’t trust him or her and then resort to a message board of lay people for advise? I gave advice on one when I first discovered they existed, before I was enlightened, and was kicked off the site. The gall of a doctor going on one of these sites and making a point or two. Another thing I did that I was lambasted about….I mentioned I had written a book that may be of help to the newly diagnosed patient. ” Hey we got us a doctor using sick people to push his book–we caught him.” “Good work Bill…that’s the way to police our site.” What a revelation to me…I have not been back but the comments show up on my Twitter account as a feed and the comments, questions, and answers are at times sad, helpful, and funny. My favorite is the moderator who has all the medical lingo, statistics and then commentary that you “can’t trust” your urologist to be unbiased in his recommendations. And then the obligatory, ” He is just padding his checking account by recommending surgery.”  I don’t know….I read some and I am moved by the peer-to-peer concern and empathy, and then other times I worry about the newly diagnosed prostate cancer patient paying more heed to the “message board” than their healthcare professionals.

About Chavez: A prostate surgery in May, then a pelvic abscess in June and had to go to Cuba to do it. It doesn’t add up and then they throw in somewhere about the cancer, if he has prostate cancer, spread. You wouldn’t do surgery of pelvic lymph node metastasis or bone metastatis. You could get a pelvic abscess, although unusual, after a prostatectomy but you would not have to go to Cuba…we will see but again you see the news report as it pertains to prostate cancer is at best disjointed.

Updated report from 7/1/2011 Now it looks like colorectal cancer….developing…

(Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s surgery and secretive stay in Cubahas set off speculation the socialist leader’s health may be worse than the government is acknowledging.

Versions range from Chavez having cancer to him deliberately stoking the mystery to prepare a triumphant return that would boost him on the road to a 2012 re-election bid.

Here are some possible scenarios:


* Ever since Chavez, 56, underwent surgery in Havana on June 10 there have been whispers he may have prostate cancer. There has been nothing of substance to prove that, though well-known Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda gave them some credence this week in detailed reports based on unnamed medical sources. U.S.-based think-tank Stratfor also quoted a source linked to Chavez’s doctors saying a tumor in his prostate required surgery in May and then spread to his pelvis, leading to a second operation in Cuba this month.

* Were Chavez to be incapacitated or die, his Vice President Elias Jaua should take over for the rest of the six-year period under Article 233 of the constitution. A presidential election is due by the end of 2012, with the winner to start a new mandate in January of 2013.

2 Replies to “what’s wrong with the reports of Chavez having prostate cancer-prostate cancer message boards and news reporting of medical issues?”

  1. Hi Dr McHugh – Just read your blog on this today. I think the boards are helpful to people who, like us, have a doctor that resents questions. we are lucky if we get ten minutes with him when we visit. He clearly bristles when asked a question, then usually cuts you off with a curt comment. You are a rare treasure, in that you are so willing to explain things. Why don’t we find a new doctor, you may be thinking. One big reason is that my husband doesn’t want to start over with another doctor. You have really helped us. Please keep up the good work. You are a help and a blessIng! Thanks for all you do.



  2. John it is a sad state of affairs when you do not feel welcome to enter blogg sites or present at Support group meetings.
    Many prostate cancer survivors and their partners are dissatisfied with their treating physicians. The rub is that it works both ways; patients need to ask their treating physicians the questions they want answered. Treating physicians are not trained psychologists who can ask those akward questions such as” how many times a week do you have sex or how important is sex to you?”
    it would be far better for our male patient to say,”Doctor we are sexually very active and how will any of the treatments affect this?
    Come on be resposible for your decisons based on how well you ask your doctor the questions.


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