October 1997

Sex, Rugs and Rock 'n' Roll

By Michael J. Katin, MD

It has been only a few days since Marv Albert was given his pink slip by NBC (contrary to rumors, he did not immediately try it on) and the story is starting to fade from the newspapers and magazines, but in its prime the coverage of his trial drove everything else out of the headlines. This goes to show that, in the USA in 1997, celebrity is a precious commodity.

This being recognized (again), there is an opportunity for our specialty to finally make a major breakthrough in terms of public recognition. Up until now, whenever radiation therapy is mentioned in the media it is invariably presented negatively. For example, recently retired Los Angeles Dodgers' outfielder Brett Butler may have been cured of head and neck cancer by surgery and radiation therapy but all of the articles regarding this dwelt on the adverse effects of the radiation therapy treatment and the positive benefits of the natural healing techniques he utilized. Actor Brian Keith committed suicide and it was, of course, mentioned prominently that he had been receiving radiation therapy for treatment of lung cancer. The list goes on.

Traditionally, surgical intervention has gotten tremendous credit for saving celebrity lives and is usually not blamed for adverse results. There has been an enormous celebrity gap in scoring points for treatment of prostate cancer. The surgeons have locked up all the good celebrities. Having Bob Dole undergo radical prostatectomy was enough of a coup, but getting Arnold Palmer was a mortal wound for our specialty of radiation oncology. Andy Grove is distinguished for having decided on external beam radiation therapy (albeit with neoadjuvant hormonal therapy and followed by HDR brachytherapy) but he is simply not a popularly recognized figure compared to Tony Curtis, Roger Moore, Bart Starr, etc.

The Rolling Stones are now in their (fifth? sixth?) final tour and I see a phenomenal opportunity for our specialty to bail itself out of this dilemma. Males in the Boomer generation are already in the age range to be at risk for carcinoma of the prostate. Now is the time to lock in their hearts and minds. If you've seen the Stones lately, you know it's a matter of time before something bad happens to any or all of them. Their prostates have undoubtedly accumulated a huge amount of mileage. Their collective PSA already is probably at least 30. ASTRO, ACRO, the ACR, or any other organization that claims to have our well-being as a goal are obligated to sign up these guys for whatever it costs. The endorsement of any of them that radiation therapy is his choice of treatment is worth at least 100,000 to 200,000 average guys making the same request. The Stones already sold out with "Start Me Up" being handed over to Microsoft, so they're obviously available. If Pat Walsh gets Mick Jagger instead of us, it's all over.

email: mkatin@radiotherapy.com