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Eric Shanteau's Battle Against Cancer; Diving Into Men's Health; Life Lessons for Children

Aired September 27, 2008 - 08:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Welcome to HOUSE CALL, the show that helps you live longer and stronger.
First up, an Olympian's feat. He battled other swimmers in Beijing and put off his own fight against cancer. Now he's back, starting a new battle. Eric Shanteau invited me along. I was in the operating room for an exclusive look.

We have one for the guys today. Why are women so much better about getting their health checked? Men's health, we're diving in.

An important life lessons for every child, you got failure, losing, disappointment, is all of that so bad? Could the next generation of kids be losing out because they always want to win?

We start with a disease that targets men in their 20s and 30s. Now for Olympic swimmer Eric Shanteau, testicular cancer could not have struck at a worse time and he had the decision of his life to make. He invited us in. Take a look.


GUPTA (voice-over): He had been dreaming of Beijing all his life.

ERIC SHANTEAU, OLYMPIC SWIMMER: Getting to the Olympics has always been my swimming dream. Since I was eight or nine years old, right after I started swimming, I want to make an Olympic team. That's where I want to be.

GUPTA: At age 24, Eric Shanteau had reached the ranks of a world class swimmer. But just two months away from realizing his Olympic dream an unimaginable twist of fate.

SHANTEAU: One night I found something that I didn't think should be there. And basically went and got it check out a couple of days later.

GUPTA: Test results showed that Eric had testicular cancer. His doctors pushed for immediate aggressive treatment.

SHANTEAU: He tells me what I have and he's like, OK, this is what we need to do. Let's get you signed up for surgery. I'm like, hang on a second.

GUPTA: The Olympics loomed just weeks away and Shanteau faced a critical decision.

SHANTEAU: The initial reaction was probably anger. It was a week before the biggest meet of my life.

GUPTA: Eric's doctors cleared him to compete at the 11th hour. Now back from Beijing, it's the night before his operation and Eric has the calm focus of an Olympian.

SHANTEAU: This is me and my brother in the bathtub. That was before I probably even learned how to swim.

GUPTA: He knows testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer for 20-34 year olds. It's also the most curable.

GUPTA: How are you feeling?

SHANTEAU: Pretty good.

GUPTA: Drugs starting to kick in?

SHANTEAU: Yes, a little bit.

GUPTA: It's the day of his operation at Emory University Hospital.

GUPTA (on-camera): So Eric is prepped for surgery. He's ready to go. He's been waiting all day. It's about 7:10: p.m. now. For a long time, he's been waiting for this operation, two months really. Arguably it's the most challenging competition of his career, more difficult than any Olympic competition. He's finally going to get this tumor removed.

So it's about halfway through the operation now. They have removed the tumor and everything seems to be going pretty well. I think about another 15 or 20 minutes before the operation is over. We'll come back.

After a few hours in the operating room, Eric heads to recovery.

So, the operation is over.

DR. JEFF CARNEY, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Yes, the operation is over and I think it went very well.

GUPTA: Any problems at all?

CARNEY: No problems whatsoever.

GUPTA: And hopefully no problems for Eric who has one message for fans.

SHANTEAU: The early detection thing is you can't stress that enough. Don't be afraid to get out there and see your doctor. It can save your life.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: And you know, we talked to Eric just a few days ago, some good news. He's doing well, and as of now at least will not need chemotherapy.

Eric was lucky in catching his disease early, but unfortunately, many men put off seeking help until it's simply unavoidable. According to experts, men are more likely than women to put off routine checkups and even ignore symptoms of health problems. And that's a problem.

Here to answer our questions and get men involved, Dr. Nikhil Shah. He's a urologist, a men's health specialist. He's also the founder of the men's health and wellness center. First of all, welcome to HOUSE CALL.

DR. NIKHIL SHAH, MEN'S HEALTH SPECIALIST: Thank you. Glad to be here.

GUPTA: You know, you and I have talked about this trend, and I find this fascinating because men will go to the gym. They try to take care of themselves in so many ways, but when it comes to health, going to the doctor and all that sort of stuff, just not as good as women. First of all, let's start there. Why is that?

SHAH: I think men tend to approach health in a stoic - in a stoicism of sorts. They don't want to go to gym. They've been there in high school and college. As they age, things happen, they get busy. All of a sudden, that whole tank-like mentality, I'm strong, I'm fit, I don't need to do anything kind of creeps up on them over time. And then they start to get some problems, and all of a sudden they realize they haven't been maintaining their health.

GUPTA: Is it important to go through the woman to get to the man's health?

SHAH: Well, I think that's difficult. Oftentimes men regard their spouses as someone who can help them do things, but for a lot of times, let's face it, men don't like to ask for directions, and men probably aren't going to listen to their spouse or their -- but for the most part, men need to listen to somebody. And I think sometimes a caring provider can be that person.

GUPTA: Let's point out again, you have founded a men's health center. We've been soliciting questions about that very issue from our e-mail and roving cameras. Let's take a look here at one, Percy from Texas writes this. "What effects exist between taking an oral calcium supplement and prostate cancer?"

Dr. Shah, people have some very specific questions here because they're concerned about this. What do you tell someone like Percy?

SHAH: Well, first of all, supplements are almost a $30 billion business around the world, up to millions of dollars in the United States and so supplements -- Americans want to pay for supplements. They want supplements to help them. Calcium's a big deal because as we age we get changes in our bones, in our bone structure. Prostate cancer in relation to calcium however is one that as men get prostate cancer they get changes in their bones that lead them to osteoporosis and problems like that. So our recommendation is men with prostate cancer, dealing with prostate cancer and its treatment they take supplemental calcium. And I think any man aging should take supplemental calcium.

GUPTA: I'm 38-years-old. Is there anything I can do to avoid getting prostate cancer later in life?

SHAH: Unfortunately, prostate cancer is one of those things that's largely based on hereditary issues. Things that you can particularly do, a strong, healthy diet, taking care of yourself, but other than that, no. Get frequent screening, get your PSA test, visit the doctor. Those things are going to help you.

GUPTA: The basics still do apply here. Let's go to our roving camera.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife and I are both very interested in fitness and I'm wondering should our exercise routines be different, given gender-specific issues?


GUPTA: So, men and women really are different as it turns out, right? How about exercise?

SHAH: The first -- what we see is the difference in exercise about how men and women approach exercise, but the way they exercise is absolutely not different, Sanjay. Men and women both need to get out, but what they need to do is get out and do a cardio-based exercise plan, but integrate weight training and resistance exercises. You got to exercise your heart, but you got to exercise your bones and your muscles, too.

Again, the gentleman that gets out there, that hasn't done anything since high school, college football, gets out in the gym, thinks he can bench press 300 pounds he's going to hurt himself. We ask our patients, do it wisely and do it with your spouses. It's a great way to get together with each other and work out together.

GUPTA: Is there a single piece of advice that you give men? It's a hard question, but what do you tell your patients?

SHAH: I always -- I tell my patients two things, and sometimes they look at me like what are you talking about? Be mindful, be wise. But they don't hesitate to know what's in their bank account, how many gigabytes of RAM their computers have. How many times they got to get an oil change for their car? How many rams -- how many horsepower it has?

These guys have to take care of their bodies. Know your body, know your numbers, your blood pressure, your cholesterol, your PSA. Take care of yourself. It's the best way to live with dignity and live a long time.

GUPTA: Dr. Shah, we're going to be back on the show. Such an important issue. We talk about women's health and men's health all the time. I'll be sure to call on you again.

SHAH: I look forward to it. Thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thanks so much.

And don't go anywhere at home either. Later in the show, a warning out there for all parents, some experts are saying that you -- we -- may be raising a nation of wimps. We'll tell you why.

But first, a check of this week's most intriguing medical stories. We got all of it coming up after the break.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSE CALL. It's time for a check of this week's medical headlines. We turn to Judy Fortin for the latest -- Judy.

JUDY FORTIN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Sanjay. First up, it's almost flu season again and federal officials say more kids need vaccinations than previously thought. Age recommendations have been extended from children six months to five years old to children six months to 18 years old. That's an additional 30 million kids. Officials say children are two to three times more likely than adults to contract the disease. In total, the CDC hopes to vaccinate 261 million people. Approximately 36,000 die each year from flu complications.

Also in the news, hope for women concerned about ovarian cancer. Scientists say they may have found a gene marker which could indicate who will develop the disease. They compared tissue and blood samples from women with ovarian cancer and women without it and found all of the women with ovarian cancer shared a specific gene called TIM-1. Researchers hope this discovery will help in early detection and treatment of ovarian cancer. More than 20,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

Those are this week's medical headlines. Sanjay, back to you.

GUPTA: All right. Thanks, Judy.

Later in the show, are your kids always winning that 12th place trophy? Is that doing more harm than good? We have some answers.

Plus, can you imagine staying in bed for three months and getting paid for it? We have that dream job for you, that's next, coming up on HOUSE CALL in 60 seconds.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. You know, every week, Elizabeth Cohen offers some new ways to help you empower yourself to get the most out of your health care. She joins us with this week's tips -- Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, with all the bad news about the economy recently, here at the "Empowered Patient," we decided we needed to tell people how to save money on health care expenses. We scoured the internet to find eight sites that you can go to learn how to save money on health care expenses as we know they can get out of hand pretty quickly.

One person we talked to is Robert Hendricks. When his twin daughters were born, he was stuck with a $15,000 bill because they were born prematurely so he's got lots of great ideas with how to save money on health care. He had to learn them the hard way. As a matter of fact, he wrote a book called "My health care is killing me."

So, here are some tips that we picked up from him and from other people. We're going to send you to Web sites where you can learn how to get discount dental care, how to get cheaper drugs, how to save money on contact lenses and how to lower your hospital bills with just one phone call.

We're also going to tell you about a tax deduction on medical expenses that a lot of people don't know about, and it's actually -- it can be kind of hard to use but we we're going to send you to Web sites that make it a lot easier to use. So all of this advice about how to save money on health care expenses is at -- Sanjay.

GUPTA: All right, Elizabeth. Thanks as always. Good stuff.

Now, imagine staying in bed for three months straight. You could surf the internet, you can watch television, even get paid $1,000 a week. Sounds like a dream job, right? Maybe not. It's all part of new research being conducted by NASA.


RODERICK JONES, BEDREST PATIENT: All I do is lay down in bed every day.

GUPTA: This man is getting paid $12,000. Why? To stay in bed for 84 days. You've been in this bed tilted like this, in this room, for 12 weeks.

JONES: Yes. For 12 weeks.

GUPTA: That sounds insane to me.

JONES: Somebody once told me you have to be a little crazy to do something like this.

GUPTA: 40-year-old Roderick Jones is a chemist by trade was between jobs and trying to save money for a move with his family when he spotted an unusual ad on the internet. JONES: They say, do you want to help space research, do you want a little vacation and this is what they meant?

At the time, I didn't know it was actually, you're literally in bed for the entire study.

GUPTA: Day in, day out. He lies at this six-degree angle with his head down. Surfs the internet, watches all the cable TV he wants. He's fed three meals a day.

How do you position your body to be able to eat?

JONES: Normally I do one of two things. I turn on my side and just move my tray, or I can actually turn on my stomach as well.

GUPTA: He talks on the phone and, yes, he even goes to the bathroom laying in this position, head down, feet slightly up.

DR. PETER CAVANAGH, UNIV. OF WASHINGTONG SEATTLE: It allows fluid to be redistributed in the same way that fluid is redistributed in space.

GUPTA: So you're saying, simply put someone on bedrest for 12 weeks, tilt their bed a little bit, is that a good enough model of weightlessness?

CAVANAGH: You can actually see chemical changes that occur within the bones.

GUPTA: You see bone loss is a major problem for astronauts. In fact, they experience ten times greater bone loss than a post- menopausal woman. Ten times. So, half the study's participants are selected to exercise for two hours a day. The other half must stay in bed at all times. Rod is one of the exercisers. It's that exercise that can be so effective in preventing bone loss.

After 84 days, the time has finally come to get back on his feet. Rod walks up and down the hallways without a hitch. The question is, has it all been worth it?

JONES: There was never a day that I doubted the worth of what I was doing.


GUPTA: Not bad work if you can get it.

Coming up next --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're talking about panic attacks. We're talking about self-mutilation.


GUPTA: You think you're being a good parent, but could your technique actually spell disaster for your children?

And later, excessive perspiration. If you're sweating buckets the second you leave the house, stay tuned for some valuable tips to combat this rather uncomfortable problem.


GUPTA: HOUSE CALL is back. It's only natural that parents want to make life a little easier for their kids. I have children. I know what that's like. But could some helicopter parents be hovering too low? A new book says parental hyper concern could be the reason that kids are breaking down in record numbers and possibly turning into a nation of wimps.

Elizabeth Cohen has this report.


COHEN (voice-over): Cindy North has dedicated her life to teaching young minds. But rather than earn finding grateful parents, she says more and more of them are actually blaming teachers for their kids' poor grades. Some parents take it to extremes.

CINDY NORTH, TEACHER: The one that stands out is a parent who went to a U.S. congressman and made a complaint about a homework assignment that I gave.

COHEN: These helicopter parents, as they're known, sometimes try to bully teachers into changing grades and for giving late homework.

NORTH: A lot of them feel that they have to be involved in every aspect of their child's life in order to make sure their child turns out the way that they think that he or she should.

COHEN: North was even enforced to get a restraining order against one parent.

NORTH: The parent was a professional boxer and came to school looking for me.

COHEN: North is far from alone. Teachers across the country have similar complaints. So what's going on? Hara Estroff Marano, the author of "A Nation of Wimps" says being too involved can turn a child into a wuss. And she says without coping skills, kids can become depressed and worse.

HARA ESTROFF MARANO, AUTHOR OF "A NATION OF WIMPS": We're talking about panic attacks. We're talking about self-mutilation.

COHEN: Psychologists say if parents get too involved in every facet of life, kids won't learn to be independent.

NORTH: They're learning that I don't have to do my best because somebody will always save me.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: All right. Elizabeth, thanks again. Stay tuned. Later in the show, a controversial way one state is handling the obesity epidemic. Just who's going to pay the price?

But first, have you ever wanted to have your own medical question answered on this show? We'll tell you how to make it happen when HOUSE CALL returns.


GUPTA: It's time for our segment called "Ask the Doctor," a chance to get answers to medical questions that are on your minds.

Erin in Connecticut writes this -- "I have to use a prescription anti-perspirant. Within minutes of getting out of the shower, my shirt will be soaked under my arms. Are situations like mine common? Is there anything I can do about it?"

Well, Erin, first of all, this sounds like a relatively common condition called hyper hydrosis. People can experience excessive sweating on their heads, hands, feet and face as well as you have already discovered.

Now, a prescription anti-perspirant may be necessary, but other effective treatments to ask your doctor about, anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, botox injections or even a procedure called iontophoresis, in which a low electrical current is delivered to the affected areas. If all those options fail, surgery to remove the axillary sweat glands or interrupt some of the nerve signals might also work. Erin, I hope that helps.

We do want to hear the medical questions on your mind so be sure to submit your questions via i-report. Now, a lot of people ask us about this. So I want to show you really quick.

First of all, you know, just pick up a cell phone of any sort. You can actually record your own video on a cell phone. And then you go to, create an account. It's easy, it's free. You take this, you upload your video onto the computer or you can simply type a question. Provide your city, provide your state and then just hit "submit." Finally, tune in every Saturday and Sunday morning at 8:30, 5:30 Pacific to see if your i-report was selected to be answered here on the show.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL.

Losing weight could save you money. Alabama has a new plan that would make employees pay for health insurance, depending on what they weigh. As you might expect, though, it's controversial.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA (voice-over): If you're overweight in Alabama, you may soon be paying the price. More than 30 percent of adults in Alabama are obese, making it the second fattest state in the country, after Mississippi. But William Ashmore of the Alabama State Employees Insurance Board has a plan to change that in the hopes of saving money and saving lives.

WILLIAM ASHMORE, CEO, ALABAMA STATE EMPLOYEE INSURANCE BOARD: Over 10 percent of the people we screen are at risk for one of the factors that we're screening for and the vast majority of these people have no earthly idea that they were at risk. We screen for things such as cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose readings. We also have been monitoring the body mass index.

GUPTA: Under the plan, doctors will screen more than 3,000 state employees next year, and the ones found to be most at risk will pay an extra $25 a month for health insurance unless they take action.

ASHMORE: We give them the voucher, they go to the physician. As long as they go to their physician, they will get a $25 discount off of their premium.

GUPTA: Ashmore says the plan is not meant to penalize but help obese employees, but some state workers don't see it that way. University professor E.K. Daufin feels the plan is more of a fat tax.

E.K. DAUFIN, PH.D.: It's penalizing people just for being genetically who they are and yet I have a body mass index, a lovely, sexy, body mass index of more than 44 right now.

GUPTA: But Dr. David Roberts, an Emory University physician who is not affiliated with the plan says getting patients in the door is half the battle.

DR. DAVID ROBERTS, DIR., EMORY EXECUTIVE HEALTH: All they're doing is sending people to go to the physicians and let the physicians, and trusting the physicians to do a good job. We don't know how many people are out there until they come in. That's a key point.


GUPTA: Well, unfortunately, that's all the time we have for today. If you missed any part of today's show, check out my podcast on

Remember, HOUSE CALL is the place for the answers to all your medical questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.