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Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway) announces early-stage prostate cancer
Old 04-17-2012, 07:13 PM   #1
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Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway) announces early-stage prostate cancer

The press release:
http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/news/APR1712.pdf

The headline's pretty much the whole story:
Quote:
This is to let you know that I have been diagnosed with stage I prostate cancer. The good news is that I’ve been told by my doctors that my condition is not remotely lifethreatening or even debilitating in any meaningful way. I received my diagnosis last Wednesday. I then had a CAT scan and a bone scan on Thursday, followed by an MRI today. These tests showed no incidence of cancer elsewhere in my body.
My doctors and I have decided on a two-month treatment of daily radiation to begin in mid-July. This regimen will restrict my travel during that period, but will not otherwise change my daily routine.
I feel great – as if I were in my normal excellent health – and my energy level is 100 percent. I discovered the cancer because my PSA level (an indicator my doctors had regularly checked for many years) recently jumped beyond its normal elevation and a biopsy seemed warranted.
He sounds pretty brave, but he was very upset when his first spouse had radiation treatment for her cancer. Perhaps time has given him more perspective-- and the radiation-targeting tech has come a long way. But I'd certainly hate to be the tech who makes a bureaucratic error or a scheduling snafu.

Buffett will be 82 years old at the end of August. I wonder if any geriatric doctor would have recommended radiation treatment for anyone else this age. Of course it's a personal choice and he's very vigorous among his demographic, so perhaps it was an easy recommendation to make.

The annual meeting is on 5 May. I don't think that Buffett would consider prostate cancer a reason to step down. I don't think there's any succession procedure for temporary incapacity, although Buffett would act if he or Charlie Munger felt it was necessary. Shareholders are so split on having Buffett running the company that I couldn't predict whether the shares will go down... or even up.

I've been making a few percent selling Berkshire call & put options, but I'm not going to touch this situation for a few months. I don't see this as a buying or a selling opportunity, although a slew of pundits claim the stock is undervalued. If the stock goes up 10% then I'd probably sell a few shares to rebalance. If it goes down 30% then I'd buy a few more shares.
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Old 04-17-2012, 07:57 PM   #2
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You pose a good question as to whether a geriatric doctor might eschew the radiation in any other individual.

I'd be interested in some of our medical folks weighing in on the choice of radiation.
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Old 04-17-2012, 09:36 PM   #3
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I guess even very rich people can be ignorant about this stuff.
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Old 04-17-2012, 10:00 PM   #4
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Had not seen this. THanks for posting.
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Old 04-17-2012, 11:41 PM   #5
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Had not seen this. THanks for posting.
If you're trending on Twitter, it's generally not good. When I saw his name on the trend list I was afraid the news was even worse.
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Old 04-18-2012, 05:10 PM   #6
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I guess even very rich people can be ignorant about this stuff.
My rationale:
The U. S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended that doctors not screen men age 75 and older for prostate cancer. The panel weighed the potential benefits and harms of PSA testing in this population and concluded that the screening was more likely to have a negative impact on these men than a positive one.

The rationale: Prostate cancer is a slow-growing malignancy that may take 10 or more years to produce significant symptoms. Many elderly men will die of another condition before their prostate cancer becomes life threatening. Thus, an abnormal PSA test would lead to the pain and discomfort of a prostate biopsy and unnecessary worry if no cancer is found. If cancer is found and treated, the man will have to contend with side effects, such as sexual dysfunction and incontinence.

Other medical organizations recommend annual screening for men at average risk for prostate cancer beginning at age 50, but they do not address when screening is no longer necessary. And still others recommend screening for all men with a life expectancy of at least 10 years.
From:

Johns Hopkins: Prostate Disorders on benefit of PSA test for elderly: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts

And in case people missed this:

The USPSTF already recommends against routine PSA screening in men older than 75 years. In the new draft recommendation, it extends this to all men. It now recommends against routine screening in men younger than 75 years, giving this a "D" rating, which means "there is moderate or high certainty that the service has no benefit or that the harms outweigh the benefits."
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Old 04-18-2012, 05:22 PM   #7
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Here we go again..

Quote:
Warren Buffett’s revelation that his prostate cancer was diagnosed with the help of a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test threatens to reignite controversy that the medical community hoped had been settled last year over the usefulness of the test.
Vitals - Buffett's cancer catch could reignite debate over PSA testing
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Old 04-18-2012, 07:21 PM   #8
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Sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up.

But I wonder why his doc gave him a PSA at that age? He is unlikely to live another 10 years (his life expectancy is 88).



Dick Clark looks better, and he just died at 82:

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Old 04-18-2012, 07:38 PM   #9
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Sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up.
But I wonder why his doc gave him a PSA at that age? He is unlikely to live another 10 years (his life expectancy is 88).
He's a numbers cruncher. I think he'd rather know the diagnosis and decide what to do about it than to live in blissful ignorance.

I suspect he also feels that his wealth gives him access to the world's most competent treatments & technicians, who would hypothetically be more likely to treat it with minimal side effects.

After all, what harm could a few hundred millirem do to a guy his age? Is it worse than the symptoms of prostate cancer?
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Old 04-19-2012, 11:12 AM   #10
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I haven't seen psa or gleason numbers published, but he will likely die from carrying all that money around before pc gets him.

I have a relative [85] in good health who had a 20 psa and did radiation sucessfully, he's just a machine and wants nothing in his way; practically, it probably made no difference what he did, but he and his immediate family felt triumphant. It demonstrated to me the gulf between public health policy and personal quality of life.
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Old 04-19-2012, 12:46 PM   #11
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Here's another take on dealing with pc. Clark Howard is dealing with it and is quite a bit younger than WB. Clark says he is getting frequent blood tests and an annual biopsy under his watchful waiting approach.

Early diagnosis of prostate cancer affords time to weigh options | www.clarkhoward.com
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Old 04-19-2012, 02:53 PM   #12
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Every time I hear something like this, it reminds me time is more important than money. Even the billions Steve Jobs had couldn't save him. Makes me want to figure out how to retire earlier and enjoy life to the fullest!
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Old 04-19-2012, 04:46 PM   #13
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My FIL was disagnosed with early stage Prostate cancer in his early 80s and had treatment. He was told by the treating Drs that something else would probably kill him before the prostate cancer did, however MIL insisted that he have treatment. Needless to say the Drs were right. I often wonder if the treatment was the best option for him, whether it actually contributed to his turn for the worse in health as he died a couple of years later. Money was not a factor in his treatment as he had none.
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Old 04-19-2012, 05:41 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DangerMouse
My FIL was disagnosed with early stage Prostate cancer in his early 80s and had treatment. He was told by the treating Drs that something else would probably kill him before the prostate cancer did, however MIL insisted that he have treatment. Needless to say the Drs were right. I often wonder if the treatment was the best option for him, whether it actually contributed to his turn for the worse in health as he died a couple of years later. Money was not a factor in his treatment as he had none.
I remember reading info that concurs with you and Trombone. A specific article I remember reading was more to the tilt of watchful waiting for older people. But I remember a specific part that stated most people just couldnt stand the thought of something cancerous in their body and wanted it removed immediately. Trouble is their are no do overs, either way for that matter.
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Old 04-19-2012, 11:40 PM   #15
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My father didn't discover his prostate cancer until it was stage IV, and he was 66 years old. His late diagnosis was mainly due to his "guy behavior" avoidance of the medical bureaucracy, and it was discovered only as a side effect of a blood test for another health question. He briefly considered watchful waiting until the stage IV part of the diagnosis came back, and by then radical prostatectomy was the only option.

He was declared cancer free but last year (age 77) was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Probably no causation. The staff at the care facility have learned to look for it in Alzheimer's patients, otherwise he wouldn't have seen a doctor until the pain was too much to bear. He elected chemotherapy and has had five of the 6-9 infusions. The oncologist says his blood work looks good and treatment may stop there. Of course now he's a healthy Alzheimer's patient, which neither my brother nor I are convinced is a good thing. We're not sure what the next step should be.

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Trouble is their are no do overs, either way for that matter.
No double-blind controlled studies, either...
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Old 04-20-2012, 12:24 AM   #16
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The NHS in UK has no routine prostate cancer screening program. Cost may play a role in this, but I do not know.

FAQ 7: Why isn't there a national screening programme for prostate cancer in England?
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Old 04-20-2012, 05:13 AM   #17
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The NHS in UK has no routine prostate cancer screening program. Cost may play a role in this, but I do not know.

FAQ 7: Why isn't there a national screening programme for prostate cancer in England?
It could also be those that benefit financially from the tests weren't involved in setting the screening standards.
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Old 04-20-2012, 12:56 PM   #18
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I suspect he also feels that his wealth gives him access to the world's most competent treatments & technicians, who would hypothetically be more likely to treat it with minimal side effects.
Sometimes this can also work against them... as was the case with Steve Jobs. His wealth allowed him the opportunity to sidestep regular treatment in favor of more expensive developmental treatments in hopes that they would heal him without the side effects. Some speculate that if he had undergone the regular path of treatment in his final years he may have lasted a bit longer (years even)...

Jobs’s Unorthodox Treatment

Obviously, his condition was entirely different... but the wealth, and access to the best of the best in medical care is a common connection. Buffet strikes me as about the most down to earth Billionaire you can find these days... but I'm guessing he still has at least a small level of arrogance (probably the wrong word to use there, didn't care to pull out the thesaurus) these ultra rich carry that their medical treatment will go better than average... after a life of privilege through a combination of luck and hard work - who can blame them. I'm sure I'd feel the same... and wish to remain blissfully ignorant to my own mortality.

I'm sure he expects to reach the century mark, and I'm sure his odds of getting there are better than the average 82 year old.
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Old 04-20-2012, 01:19 PM   #19
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Doesn't he also eat junk food?

Not sure if it's his regular diet but he eats sweets and greasy food from the companies he invest in or likes some Omaha restaurants that produce comfort food?

Obviously hasn't hurt him though.
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Old 04-21-2012, 12:53 AM   #20
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Doesn't he also eat junk food?
"OMG and now he has prostate cancer!!!"
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