Prostate cancer researcher offers positive prognosis; makes turtle, bird comparison

May 2, 2013 

— Dr. Paul Lange, a leading urologist at the cutting edge of prostate cancer research, broke it down Wednesday into birds and turtles.

When it comes to the second most common cancer in the word, birds are bad, turtles not so bad.

“There are a heck of a lot more turtles than there are birds,” the Seattle doctor told a group of 25 or so at the Wednesday Daybreak Rotary meeting in Sunnyside. “Birds” are rapidly spreading forms of prostate cancers; “turtles” spread slowly, if much at all.

Using the layman’s language from his 2003 book, “Prostate Cancer for Dummies,” Lange described a rapidly changing era in the research and treatment of a cancer that the American Cancer Society projects will kill almost 30,000 men this year in the United States.

It’s the second leading cause of cancer death in U.S. men behind lung cancer and, when it spreads to the bones, causes a painful demise.

Lange is both a professor at the Unversity of Washington and director of the Institute for Prostate Cancer Research, a collaboration between the university and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Indeed, prostate cancer expertise is in the midst of change, according to the American Cancer Society website.

Long-held beliefs that nearly all men 40 and older should be tested and all prostate cancer treated aggressively are being rethought.

Tests, including the common prostate specific antigen blood-test, are inaccurate while side effects of many treatments are unpleasant.

For example, surgically removing prostates or hormone therapies sometimes leave men impotent.

Researchers are experimenting with genetic tests to determine which men are more at risk and how each patient will respond to different forms of treatment.

Lange, who has had prostate cancer himself, told the Rotary group -- incidentally comprised mostly of middle-age men -- that the latest studies suggest the best way to treat prostate cancer is to tailor it to the individual patient, rather than jumping too quickly to surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or chemical castration.

He also sees reason for hope.

“I’m going to be around when we can put this cancer to rest and assure these men that they are not going to die,” he said.

Editor's note: Corrected to fix doctor's last name.

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