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Buffett’s prostate cancer: poor decisions

April 23, 2012

About the Author

photo of Marc Garnick, MD

Marc Garnick, MD, Editor in Chief,

Marc B. Garnick, M.D., is an internationally renowned expert in medical oncology and urologic cancer. A clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, he also maintains an active clinical practice at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical … See Full Bio
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June 19, 2012

Wow this is a very informative article. I never realized what trouble can arise from this type of prostrate cancer testing. It’s amazing how even the rich and powerful can be given the wrong advise.


June 13, 2012

Its seems hard for some people to understand that money isn’t everything. Though it makes life much easier in many ways, things such as cancer are more destructive than any kind of “power” people have made the last centuries.
Cancer is something that is almost impossible to avoid for many people. Those who have died on this terrible disease, R.I.P.

Kind Regards,


May 25, 2012

Doctors are too eager to medicate or radiate. This is a great example. It also proves that Knowledge is much better then money. If he took the time to research his health as much as he does a business he is considering buying there would be no radiation and he would be just as healthy as ever. Buffet needs to re-think his decision. At 81 I think radiation therapy will probably start depleting his health.

May 13, 2012

Good read. I have to wonder what’s going through Buffet’s mind and how confident he is. Surely a man with that much wealth would have access to medical expertise and facilities that most of us can only dream of?

Keen to see how the following years roll out for him…

Alister McWilling

May 1, 2012

At 81, Mr. Buffet may be exposing himself to unecessay treatment. As good as some reported RT results may be, he is still exposing himself to ionizing radiation .

If he didn’t consult other CaP authorities, which he could do with no effort at all, then he is relying on one MD’s opinion. In CaP that is hardly the best way to proceed.
Perhaps he is the kind of gentleman who hears the BIG C word and immediately panics!

May 1, 2012

What none of these physicians or patients or worried men say ( or perhaps even know) is that there is no viable treatment for prostate cancer.Well under 1% of men undergoing “treatment” have an improved quality of life, while most men who die at 65 or later , have prostate cancer and did not expire because of it . Only the small percentage of men who suffer the most aggressive forms of the disease may benefit in some small degree from surgery or radiation therapy.

George MacDonald
April 30, 2012

Pretty much everything expressed in this article is a matter of opinion and up for debate.

So, it befuddles me that a medical professional would be telling people NOT to have a test (such as PSA) that carries no risk.

The problem is NOT with the test — it is with what other physicians do with the results. If Buffet was informed of all his options and the consequences and/or benefits associated with each — HE was making an informed choice. HIS choice.

The choice should not lie with a physician. It is Buffet’s prostate not the physician’s. It is Buffet’s choice.

True, when somebody else is paying a test, it can be argued that the cost of the test outweigh any likely benefits from the test. But, Buffet could afford to pay for a PSA test for pretty much evey man in the country — so that was not a factor in this case.

Fred Evans
April 30, 2012

I know that the current medical advice is that PSA tests are unnecessary in older men. As Dr. Garnick states, “the vast majority of older men would die of something else in the 10 to 20 years.”

As a soon to be “older man” my concern is what if my doctor declines to ask for a PSA as part of my normal blood panel and my cancer turns out not to be part of the “vast majority”? Frankly, I just don’t see the downside risk of a PSA test. It’s non-invasive and cheap. If the levels are elevated my doctor and I can decide what to do. If I don’t have the test I do nothing and potentially put myself at risk. What is rational for the “vast majority” may be irrational for the individual.

April 30, 2012

The article is right on point. Even before I saw this article, I thought about calling Buffett. I am 67 and have had a high PSA for 15 years. Five(5) biopsies during that time. Most recent one showed small volume, slow growing cancer. Hasn’t grown at all in the past year. No treatment warranted at this time.
Dr. Garnick: why don’t you try to reach Buffett. If your ethics code precludes that, I may try to reach him.

May 9, 2012

A simple supplement of Vitamin D3, increased exposure to sunlight to synthesize Vitamin D3 and calcium have been reported to reduce tumor by as much as 50%, even for men who had metastatic prostate cancer. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that those who have deficiency in Vitamin D3 have increased risk in prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer etc. (Here are some of the studies: Clinical J of the American Society of Nephrology by M F Holick, Sept 2008, vol3; The New England J of Medicine by M C Chapuy, et al Dec 3/1992; J of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism by P Lips et al; Arch Pediatric Adoles Medicine by C M Gordon et al June 2004, vol 158.There are many more references or cross-references as you read some of the articles.)

April 30, 2012

I do hope that with all of Mr. Buffets wisdom and money he is considering all of his options, second opinions, and not worrying about the financial costs. Proton therapy treatment for Prostrate Cancer may do less damage. The richest men don’t always make the best choices ie. Steve Jobs.

April 28, 2012

The general sentiment that prostate cancer is over-treated in the US is likely correct, but we don’t have the details of Mr. Buffett’s disease. Even a high-risk, Gleason 8, T3 prostate cancer could accurately be called “not remotely life-threatening or even debilitating in any meaningful way” as Mr. Buffett has been quoted as describing his cancer. With effective radiotherapy and hormonal manipulation, men with such disease can live for years without significant affects on their quality of life and an otherwise healthy 81 yo white male has an average additional life expectancy of 7 years which is plenty enough time for an intermediate or high-risk prostate cancer to adversely affect his quality or quantity of life without treatment.

Moreover, it is true that radiotherapy is not without risk, but this article seems to exaggerate them. Sure men get a bit tired and might have a bit of bowel irritation at the end of treatment but I have yet to have one man who is working take time off from work during or immediately after a course of RT and older men do just as well. Rates of chronic rectal bleeding are now ONLY 3% or less and erectile function is PRESERVED in 60-70% of men who are potent before RT and who are not taking hormones.

April 27, 2012

great article…i have to admit

April 23, 2012

Great post, thanks for the advice. I was not aware of these options. You would think with the money Mr Buffett has in his nest egg, he would at least surround himself with more knowledgeable medical advisers.

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