Celebrity Prostate Exams Too Much Reality TV?

But other doctors believe the public responds to disturbing events on TV -- just look at the number of hospital dramas and forensic science shows.

"I think the public will be grossed out at the thought at first but then curiosity will take over and they will watch just for the voyeur factor," said Dr. Mark Kawachi, director of the Prostate Cancer Center at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif. "People love to see medical stuff that they've never seen before. It's like doing something that's secretive or forbidden."

Whether or not Garrett's public prostate exam gets men into the doctor's office or sends them out of the living room, doctors are having their own debates about the rectal prostate exams. The medical community has been debating the value of digital rectal exams for years.

Is It Really Worth It?

"It is important to know that few prostate cancers are identified through this mechanism [rectal exam] alone," said Robert H. Getzenberg, director of urology research and professor at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Other necessary tests might include a blood test called PSA and biopsies. Once these tests confirm cancer, some doctors even question how effective current treatments are.

"Treatments are also controversial because it is unclear how much either surgery or radiation alters the natural history of this disease," said Dr. Peter C. Albertsen, chief of urology at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.

"We have no significant data concerning the impact of radiation versus conservative management," said Albertsen.

But prostate cancer advocates say that the prospect of death outweighs clinical doubts about cancer screening.

"It's sorely needed to bring attention to the disease," said Jamie Bearse, COO of Zero the Project to End Prostate Cancer. "Ninety-nine percent survive prostate cancer when it's caught early. The problem is that only about half of all men at risk for prostate cancer get tested."

"Men are different animals than women in terms of taking care of their health. Any excuse is a good one to avoid going to the doctor," Bearse said.

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