Shame on you, NYU

Prostate cancer is one of the three most common cancers in men, and we still don’t have great strategies for screening for it. Recommendations range from no screening to yearly rectal exams and PSA testing.  But while screening for the disease is a murky topic, treatment is a bit less so.  Depending on the particular patient and stage of the disease, many treatments are available from watchful waiting to radiation to hormone therapy to radical surgery.

As with many cancers, the goal of treatment is to remove as much tumor as possible.  Cancers can often be cured if they are isolated and can be completely removed by a surgeon (or alternatively zapped to oblivion by radiation or other techniques).  Prostate cancer is a very physical, palpable disease.  You can see it under a microscope, often feel it on exam.  To fix it, you have to remove and/or kill a lot of cells.

Prostate cancer can be devastating, but strangely enough, some behave rather kindly.  They can be slow-growing and can often be followed by serial exams and laboratory tests.  A large number may end up needing no further treatment than this.  For those who do need more aggressive treatment, specialists have some very high-tech solutions that require years of training.

Which is way I was so disturbed to find a major hospital offering “holistic treatment of prostate cancer.”  The words themselves aren’t frightening because they are vague and meaningless, but the content of the website is not:

Dr. Geo Espinosa and his team are highly experienced in treating men with all stages of prostate cancer in an integrative, holistic fashion, using natural therapies to help prevent the disease or slow its progression…

What are these therapies?

Our treatment methods include:

  • Nutritional support and counseling, including dietary modification and optimal use of dietary supplements
  • Botanical medicine (therapeutic use of Eastern and Western medicinal herbs)
  • Mind-body counseling, including stress management and help with psychological factors associated with a diagnosis of urologic disease
  • Acupuncture (insertion of fine needles at specific anatomical points to provide balance and relieve pain, as practiced for thousands of years by Chinese medical practitioners)
  • Identification of environmental toxins that may contribute to urologic conditions
  • Exercise instruction
There are no dietary supplements or herbs proven to help with prostate cancer.  Several trials of various vitamin and mineral supplements have shown no effect.  Stress management and exercise are hardly “alternative” or “holistic”.  Acupuncture has no role in the treatment of cancer, and there is no evidence that prostate cancer is caused by environmental toxins.  Even if it were, once the cancer is there, it’s a bit too late to avoid the causative factor.
But all of that is at least harmless right?  It must be a whole lot cheaper than real medicine.
Why doesn’t Dr. Espinosa accept health insurance?
Naturopathic doctors’ understanding of wellness does not always parallel what insurance companies believe and pay for. Most insurance plans do not cover naturopathic or acupuncture consultations.Dr. Espinosa believes that patients should be entitled to the highest standards of care, regardless of cost-influenced decisions made by insurance companies. While some progress is being made in recognition of complementary modalities, insurance companies and government programs like Medicare lag behind in recognition of such efficacious therapies as nutrition, herbal, environmental medicine and mind-body therapies. However, Dr. Espinosa will try to cooperate fully in giving you appropriately coded medical bills and supportive documentation as an Out-of-Network provider so that you can submit them to your insurance company.

This guy offers useless treatments that patient must pay for out-of-pocket, and flirts with what sounds, in my opinion, like fraud (“giving you appropriately coded medical bills”).  If insurance doesn’t cover it, why should the coding matter?

But some of it does sound fun.  For only 2500 bucks you can go on a prostate cancer “retreat” that includes a Broadway show.

Shame on you, NYU.

3 Comments

  1. Shirah

     /  November 4, 2011

    The best words that I can come up with are “Ugh. Gross.” That’s gross to lie to patients– and made more disgusting by the cost, in terms of inappropriate treatment and actual money. Beyond that I can only offer incoherent sounds of disgust. Seriously, who decided that program was a good idea??!?

  2. BB

     /  November 4, 2011

    Thought I recognized the name.
    When he was at Columbia, he and his colleague were treating bladder cancer with yam extract. Saw the brochure when a friend’s father wanted to try it and the friend asked me for a thought.
    As I recall, he took insurance at Columbia.

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