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Introducing Dr. Eric Walser – Trailblazer in Prostate Cancer Treatment

Just down near the Gulf in Galveston, Dr. Eric Walser and his team of talented medical health professionals at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Wavelengh Medical are tackling prostate cancer in a new way.

(GALVESTON) – There are a number of medical concerns that plague the LGBTIA community. When we think about health crises, a lot of thoughts can tend to center around topics such as HIV/AIDS, safe sex practices, hormone replacement therapy, and suicide coupled with the dangers of untreated mental health. While none of these issues are necessarily specific to just our community, they have historically played a larger role in the lives of LGBTQIA people than they have in other communities. However, it is important for queer-identifying people to remember that these are not the only concerns that could arise in their lives. Queer people, just like all other people, are susceptible to problems in all the other varying realms of healthcare. One of which that does not discriminate against people of any sexual orientation or gender identification is cancer.

utmbteam Introducing Dr. Eric Walser - Trailblazer in Prostate Cancer Treatment
Dr. Walser and his staff at UTMB’s Wavelength Medical

Cancer appears in individuals of all sorts in various forms. For some, it can affect the brain, others the breasts, but can appear anywhere from within the bones to atop the skin and to any other part of the body. For many, this can mean the prostate. For those who aren’t familiar with the prostate, it is the gland that surrounds the bladder in people born anatomically male. It is the organ responsible for the propulsion of seminal fluid and the velocity of urination. And while it is known to be one of the more treatable cancers and has an extremely high survival rate, it is still an issue that—like all other cancers—can consume the patient’s life while undergoing treatment, especially so if left long undetected. Just like with all other cancers, the key to survival is early detection.

This isn’t just a problem for men, however. Often, the relevance of the prostate can even expand to transgender women, regardless of whether or not they’ve undergone reassignment surgery from male to female. As it turns out, during transitional surgeries (which often happen over the course of several procedures and after intensive hormone replacement therapy) the prostate is not typically removed due to potential complications with the surrounding nerves and blood vessels surrounding it. That said, trans women and those who identify as gender nonbinary, like cisgender men, should be cognizant of the need for prostate cancer screenings.

For this to happen, between the ages of 40 and 50-years-old, a person should be meeting regularly with a licensed physician (typically a primary care physician if the person has one) to begin having the prostate checked regularly throughout the remainder of their adult life. When this happens, the physician will be checking the patient’s prostate-specific antigen (or PSA) typically through blood test, looking to see if the patient has normal PSA levels. What is considerably adequate for good prostate health is a level under 4 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) in the blood draw. However, if that number is upward of 4 ng/mL, the doctor will monitor these levels to watch for an uptick. Because PSA levels are not diagnostic, they are not necessarily indicative of prostate cancer. This is only the first step in the process of obtaining a conclusive diagnosis. In fact, stimulation of the prostate resulting in an active gland can cause these levels to rise through exercise, manual labor, or sexual activity. The uptake in PSA levels could also very simply be due to a prostate that is inflamed, but not breeding cancerous cells. That being said, to rule out the chance of prostate cancer, the patient’s physician will at this point refer the patient to a specialist. From there, the specialist—a urologist (or a doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary tract) in this case— will carry out measures to ascertain a diagnosis.

Now, this is where things get a bit more complicated. The most commonly practiced method for diagnosing prostate cancer from this point is for the urologist to perform what is known as a “blind” biopsy. What is meant by the word ‘blind’ is that the urologist has not performed an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) in order to assess whether or not a cancerous lesion is visible on the prostate. The process of performing a biopsy without an MRI involves sticking approximately 12-15 needles into the gland to take samples.

walser-cropped-bw Introducing Dr. Eric Walser - Trailblazer in Prostate Cancer Treatment
Dr. Eric Walser

Enter Dr. Eric Walser, an interventional radiologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and physician at Wavelength Medical practice who believes that this may not be the best practice of diagnosing prostate cancer. As a radiologist, Dr. Walser understands the importance and benefits of not performing a biopsy without imaging, and instead has the MRI performed preemptive of the poking and prodding in order to see if a biopsy is even necessary. By performing the scan ahead of the biopsy, Dr. Walser is able to screen for cancerous lesions in the prostate. If a lesion is found, a biopsy can then be ordered with a more specific target zone so that only 2-3 needles need to be inserted into the gland as opposed to the aforementioned 12-15. By minimizing the invasiveness of the procedure, Dr. Walser’s methods can decrease the chance of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction that can often be side effects of the biopsy. Additionally, a patient who undergoes a biopsy will still likely be asked to undergo an MRI, as well. Unfortunately due to the amount of blood that will appear on the scan if done too soon after biopsy, the patient can often be asked to wait anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to have the MRI performed if the biopsy comes back positive. And while this isn’t the standard practice for physicians in this field, evidence supporting it is appearing rapidly. For example, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study just this past May, which concluded that having an MRI performed before a biopsy, or having an MRI-targeted biopsy performed, is the superior method of diagnosis.

wvm-with-utmb@3x Introducing Dr. Eric Walser - Trailblazer in Prostate Cancer Treatment
Wavelength Medical at UTMB in Galveston

But diagnosis isn’t where Dr. Walser’s interest in prostate cancer ends; and understanding his next move may come easier with a little background on his career. Dr. Walser once practiced medicine at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida where he was researching focal laser ablation (or surgical removal) of cancer from the lungs and liver. While researching these methods of treatment, Dr. Walser saw the opportunity to make a difference with those suffering from prostate cancer. For a long time, there were only a few options for conquering prostate cancer, which are still the most commonly practiced today. The first of which is radiation therapy (whether it be internal or external) to try to kill the cancer cells, which is sometimes accompanied by hormone therapy. Hormone therapy (though not a cure for cancer) is a method by which a physician will reduce the level of androgens in the body in order to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells, as cancer cells feed off androgens and use them to grow. Radiation, however, does not come without side effects, as radiation is toxic to organic matter, of which the human body is composed. According the American Cancer Society, radiation in its varied forms can lead to troubles with the bowels, urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and impotency. The other option, and often one of the more popular among physicians and their patients, is total removal of the prostate, or prostatectomy. This too can lead to issues of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction, but also can leave damaging amounts of scar tissue that may affect a physician’s ability to cut through and reach the area necessary to treat the patient again if the cancer were to recur.

And that’s where Dr. Walser’s love of focal laser ablation is helping those with prostate cancer. With his method, Dr. Walser is using focal laser ablation to excise cancer with a laser rather than removing the entirety of the prostate or poisoning the body with radiation in order to keep the prostate intact and, in turn, minimize the invasiveness of the entire course of treatment—from diagnosis to recovery. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, recurrence of prostate cancer can happen in anywhere from 30-90% of people after initial remission. This relapse generally takes places after 5-7 years of treatment and remission. However, through his studies and practices, Dr. Walser is coming to find that the chances of recurrence using his methods is somewhere near 15%—a drastic difference. However, since laser ablation for prostate cancer is new, there is not enough follow up to fully compare it to traditional therapies.

ann-cropped-bw Introducing Dr. Eric Walser - Trailblazer in Prostate Cancer Treatment
Anne Nance, Nurse Practitioner

The process of the procedure is typically quite simple. Candidates for Dr. Walser’s program travel to UTMB on a Thursday night or Friday morning for a busy weekend. The first step in this process includes a mid-morning appointment with Dr. Walser’s in-house nurse practitioner, Anne Nance (APRN, NP-C), who talks with patients about their family histories, symptoms, plans, then rounds out to a procedure on a Saturday or Sunday with Dr. Walser (who kindly works weekends to better accommodate the schedules of his patients, who often travel from far beyond Galveston for treatment). The day of the procedure, patients can expect the ablation to last to last approximately 4 hours. From there, a catheter will be inserted into the patient due to the prostate swelling postoperatively, which closes the urethra and prevents urination. The catheter could be worn anywhere from 3-5 days, but sometimes even as little as 2. After that, the patient should take the time to recover for 1-2 weeks. Most patients can go back to normal activities of daily life soon after ablation, but should be mindful not to overexert themselves.

becky-cropped-bw Introducing Dr. Eric Walser - Trailblazer in Prostate Cancer Treatment
Rebecca White, Registered Nurse

But like all good tales, this story, too, has its down side. Because focal laser ablation of prostate cancer is new to this field of medicine, insurance companies typically do not cover the procedure, which can leave patients having to spend more money to have this performed. But that isn’t a deterrent for Dr. Walser and his team at UTMB, and isn’t always one for his patients. In fact, the team’s biggest concern is making sure that patient’s get treatment and are diagnosed adequately. Speaking with Rebecca White (MBA, BSN, RN) of Dr. Walser’s team at Wavelength Medical, she stated, “Let us help you with the diagnosis. [Patients] may not be able to afford the treatment, but the process of diagnosis is usually covered by insurance.” She went on to say that by having the MRI performed before the biopsy, it could eliminate an additional cost to patients who don’t need the biopsy performed if there are no lesions found by MRI. And the way Dr. Walser and his team are practicing their methods of diagnosis, that could end up being the case for many, as White also states that due to the practice of blind biopsy, there’s a large chance for misdiagnosis or over-diagnosis in this field.

So, even if it comes down to not being able to afford this specific method of treatment, at least the folks at UTMB’s Wavelength Medical can help guide patients through the process of diagnosing in a way that could end up being more cost-effective and to a lesser degree of pain and wait time than many other practitioners in their field. Just because the “disposable gay income” isn’t a myth for everyone in the LGBTQIA community does not mean that money has to be thrown away on tests that could prove to be unnecessary. And Dr. Walser and his staff are only truly concerned about the health and lifespan of those they treat and diagnose. If that means getting a person treated by way of radiation or prostatectomy because focal laser ablation is unaffordable, that’s what these fine people will help you to make happen. It’s also worth noting for the LGBTQIA community that UTMB was recently one of only three Houston-area medical facilities to be named as a “leader” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) when it released its 2018 Healthcare Equality Index. This status bestowed upon UTMB is specifically awarded to the best of best, and is held in the highest regard with the HRC. In order for a facility to land this honor, they must score a perfect 100% on the HRC’s index, which takes into account a variety of factors, most notably LGBTQIA patient care and community outreach.

Cancer is scary; and prostate cancer gone undetected could considerably affect the lives of a great number of LGBTQIA people. Like other cancers, it can metastasize to other parts of the body and put a person at risk of larger health issues, some even resulting in death in the worst case. But with the help of people like Dr. Walser, Anne Nance, Rebecca White, and the rest of the incredible team at UTMB’s Wavelength Medical, it doesn’t have to come to that. With innovation like Dr. Walser’s and medical literature supporting these methods being researched and released consistently, their team is here to provide people who may be suffering prostate cancer with the opportunity to live a life not ruled by disease in a brand new way, while also redefining how prostate cancer is treated and the outcomes for patients.

The Men Having Babies SOUTH Surrogacy Conference & Expo is coming to Austin

After two successful events in Dallas, our 3rd Texas conference will be offered in Austin on March 3-4, 2018. It will offer gay men from Texas and beyond step-by-step guidance in their parenting journey, access to two dozen service providers from the USA and Canada, and information about financial assistance.

AUSTIN, TEXAS – Men Having Babies (MHB) is a non-profit organization, led by parents and surrogates, that has helped thousands of gay men worldwide become biological parents since 2012.

Our Austin conference is one of six annual conferences held by Men Having Babies worldwide (menhavingbabies.org/south), with other conferences taking place in Chicago, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Brussels, New York and San Francisco.

This two-day conference brings together medical and legal experts, current and future parents, and surrogate mothers. Prospective parents will benefit from practical and personal peer advice, and have opportunities to meet a wide range of leading providers from the USA and Canada at the Gay Parenting Expo, in breakout sessions and in private consultations.

“Similar to other conferences, this one draws people from far beyond the Austin area,” said Ron Poole-Dayan, Executive Director of Men Having Babies. “Among the dozens who have already registered are gay men from all parts of Texas, several states across the south and west, and even attendees from the East Coast who prefer not to wait for our Florida and NY conferences.”

The conference kicks off with a panel discussion comprised of gay surrogacy dads and the surrogates who helped them in their journeys. Two workshops will be offered on planning the surrogacy journey and a mindful look at surrogacy, based upon the accumulated knowledge of hundreds of gay men who have already gone through the process. Other sessions will cover the latest studies about gestational surrogacy, and insurance, budgeting, legal, medical and psychological aspects of surrogacy.

300x600AustinAd-1-150x300 The Men Having Babies SOUTH Surrogacy Conference & Expo is coming to AustinProceeds from sponsorship and exhibiting fees will benefit MHB’s Gay Parenting Assistance Program (GPAP), which annually provides dozens of prospective parents with over a million dollars’ worth of cash grants, discounts and free services from more than fifty leading service providers. The majority of the exhibitors at the Austin conference are supporters of GPAP, including platinum sponsors Simple Surrogacy and Fertility Center of Texas, as well as Gold sponsors: Worldwide Surrogacy Specialists, San Diego Fertility Center, Circle Surrogacy, Western Fertility Institute, CReATe Fertility Centre, and Family Source Consultants.

Over the last four years, GPAP has helped more than 500 couples and individuals achieve their goals of becoming fathers. “If we truly wanted to make a difference by establishing Men Having Babies, we knew we had to help prospective parents financially achieve their dream of starting a family, and the GPAP program does just this,” said Anthony Brown, MHB’s Board Chair. “We want to give the opportunity to people who would otherwise not be able to afford surrogacy”.

26731317_1608696742547374_5327007581474349067_n-300x186 The Men Having Babies SOUTH Surrogacy Conference & Expo is coming to Austin“Simple Surrogacy is Honored to be the Platinum Sponsor of Men Having Babies Austin Conference,” said Kristen Hanson, Executive Director of Finance and Contracts of Simple Surrogacy. “As one of the earliest supporters of the MHB Gay Parenting Assistance Program, we are delighted to see its growth. We feel very lucky to be a part of Men Having Babies’ continued stewardship in creating families!”

“We are honored to participate in the Austin MHB conference as it provides an excellent opportunity to share information on the path to fatherhood.” Said Dr. Jerald Goldstein, Founder and Medical Director at Fertility Specialists of Texas. “As a fertility center, we strive to provide intended parents with the expertise and resources, including financial assistance, that can help make this dream a reality.”

23472421_1543552455728470_6397939950245042469_n-300x225 The Men Having Babies SOUTH Surrogacy Conference & Expo is coming to AustinThe event will take place on March 3rd, 3:30 p.m. – 8 p.m., and March 4, 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. at the Austin Marriott South. In addition, MHB is offering a post-conference happy hour party at Austin’s Sellers Underground bar on Saturday, March 3, 8:30-10:30pm. The event is offered in cooperating with local and national LGBT organizations, and is open to the Austin LGBT community at large.

Go to menhavingbabies.org/south for registration and additional information.

Note: while the event is organized by a gay parenting organization, non-gay prospective parents are also welcome and will no doubt highly benefit from the information provided.

 


Press inquiries: Contact Ron Poole-Dayan, executive director of Men Having Babies ron@menhavingbabies.org / 646-461-6112. Interviews with parents, prospective parents, surrogates and experts can be arranged by request.

About Men Having Babies

With over 6500 future and current gay parents worldwide, the international nonprofit Men Having Babies (MHB) is dedicated to providing its members with educational and financial support. Each year over a thousand attendees benefit from unbiased guidance and access to a wide range of relevant service providers at its monthly workshops and conferences in NY, Chicago, Brussels, San Francisco, Dallas, Austin, Miami / Fort Lauderdale, and Tel Aviv. The organization’s Gay Parenting Assistance Program(GPAP) annually provides dozens of couples with over a million dollars worth of cash grants, discounts and free services from over fifty leading service providers. Collaborating with an advisory board made of surrogates, MHB developed a framework for Ethical Surrogacy that has received endorsements from several LGBT parenting organizations worldwide. In addition, MHB offers extensive online resources, a directory with ratings and reviews of agencies and clinics, a Surrogacy Speakers Bureau, and a vibrant online community forum.

More information: www.menhavingbabies.org

Individual Diagnosed With Meningitis After Bunnies On The Bayou

Individual Diagnosed With Meningitis After Bunnies On The Bayou

An Individual Who Attended Easter Weekend’s Bunnies On The Bayou In Houston Has Been Diagnosed With Meningococcal Meningitis According To Health Officials!

(Houston) – An individual who attended Bunnies on the Bayou  on Easter Sunday has been diagnosed with Meningococcal Meningitis, the City of Houston’s Health Department announced late Saturday. Health officials and Bunnies on the Bayou are in the process of notifying attendees.

‘There may be unrecognized cases who were in close contact with this person,’ a e-mail released to the LGBT community from Bunnies on the Bayou explains. ‘This is an example of public health in action in order to prevent further cases.’

“The City of Houston Health Department contacted us about one person who was confirmed and treated,” Josh Beasley, board member for Bunnies on the Bayou explained to About News. BOTB is an non-profit, and one of Houston’s oldest and most prestigious organizations that raises money to help many different LGBTQ charities.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time in 40 years something like this has happened,” Beasley says.

Meningococcal meningitis is a rare but serious infection that can be fatal or cause great harm without prompt treatment. As many as one out of five people who contract the infection have serious complications.

Each year, approximately 1,000 people in the U.S. get meningococcal meningitis, which includes meningitis and septicemia (blood infection).  According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 15% of those who survive are left with disabilities that include deafnessbrain damage, and neurological problems.

“The epidemiologist said there was a lower risk of transmission in this case, but asked if we would email information out just in case,” Beasley said.

The symptoms include sudden onset fever, headache and stiff neck. Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and confusion are also symptoms. Symptoms may appear quickly or over several days, typically within 3-7 days after exposure. The virus is not spread by causal contact nor is it airborne.

Officials ask if you have experienced any of the above symptoms please contact your health care provider immediately. For any questions or concerns you may also contact the Houston Health Department at 832-393-5080.

 

 

Is The Texas Foster Care System Failing LGBTQ Youth?

Is the Texas Foster Care System Failing LGBTQ Youth?
Kristopher Sharp (left) and his partner Kahlib Barton. Sharp grew up mostly in foster care institutions, in part because he was identified as gay when he entered Foster care.

 

Is The Texas Foster Care System Failing LGBTQ Youth?

The Texas Foster Care System Is Designed To Protect All Youth. But The System Failed One LGBTQ Youth In A Major Way!


 By Cade Michals | Investigative Journalist, About News

Most can’t imagine the thought of not experiencing love from a parental figure. At age 18, Kristopher Sharp aged out of the Texas Foster Care System becoming homeless, with no skills, or job. He became one of Houston’s unspoken problems plaguing the streets of Montrose, which no one wants to talk about.

It wasn’t long after being on the streets that a ‘drug dealer’ took Sharp under his wing; and the two became lovers. Their relationship was built around abuse that often landed Sharp in the hospital. “I can tell you about the first time I felt I was loved,” Sharp says. “This is after I aged out of the foster care system.”

A few days shy of his 10th birthday, Sharp entered foster care after being removed from his home. Sharp describes how his mother was a drug user and would heat up metal hangers to lash him and his siblings.

Sharp now identifies as gay, but he says he didn’t know that as a 9-year-old boy. Sharp said he didn’t even know the meaning of the word. But the caseworker did. “Whenever I first entered Foster care, the case worker told me that it would be hard to find me a family because I was gay.” Sharp stated.

In 2014 there were 31,176 children in foster care in Texas. As of January 2015 there were 4,041 children waiting for adoptive families. There are less than 2,000 foster families. The State of Texas hires subcontractors; and children like Sharp, whom are LGBTQ are most often cared for by these contractors.

Adam McCormick, a professor at St. Edward’s University in Austin has been documenting the experiences of LGBTQ youth over the last year or so. He’s found that of the thousands of children in foster care, the ones who have it the worst are LGBTQ kids.

“The state has failed to do really what it’s intended to do – to protect youth – as well as to establish some sense of permanency,” McCormick says.

“We tend to recruit foster parents from very conservative faith-based backgrounds – churches and faith-based organizations – and so the pool of individuals who are capable of providing affirming and accepting environments, capable of empowering LGBT youth is very limited,” McCormick says.

McCormick believes it’s time for Texas to start strategically recruiting foster parents who can commit to supporting and affirming kids who are LGBTQ. But at the state level several legislative attempts to put it in the books have failed.

Sharp has since left Texas, and lives in Washington, D.C. He’s graduated college and works as a legislative aid in Congress. He’s now advocating on behalf of children in the system – and he’s found love doing it.

“I’m in a relationship with a very sweet man who is a great advocate and works all across this country, who genuinely loves me and cares about me,” Sharp says.