DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a slow urinary flow and urinary retention that my doctor says are caused by an enlarged prostate gland. He suggests it can be treated with microwaves. I am not familiar with this, and you might be able to give me information that will help me reach a decision. – A.G.

ANSWER: For a gland whose normal size is about that of a peach pit, the prostate can cause big problems. Passing through the gland is the urethra, a tube that empties the bladder. An enlarged gland chokes the urethra, making it difficult to drain the bladder completely. As a result, a man with an enlarged gland has to visit the bathroom many times, both day and night.

The procedure called TURP – transurethral resection of the prostate – has been the standard way to pare away excessive gland growth. No incision is made. Instruments are passed through the urethra to the area of the gland, and then the doctor cuts away glandular tissue.

Microwave treatment of an enlarged gland is relatively new. Microwaves directed to a particular area of the prostate heat the prostate tissue. The heat coagulates the tissue, and the gland shrinks as it does with a TURP.

There are many variations in the way the microwaves are delivered. None involves cutting the skin. Some microwave procedures are done on an outpatient basis, so the man returns home the same day the procedure was done.

Microwave therapy is less painful than other procedures, and recuperation from it is swift. It has fewer complications than other mechanical procedures. I used the word “mechanical” to distinguish instrument-involved techniques from oral medicines for enlarged glands. There are such medicines.

Every procedure, from cutting a toenail to removing a brain tumor, has the potential for complications. However, I would leap for a microwave operation if I needed treatment and that option was offered to me. Readers, please note that microwaves cannot treat all enlarged glands.

The newly revised pamphlet on the prostate gives a rundown on the many problems this gland can trigger. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 1001, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.50 U.S./$6.50 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Ever since my husband learned that tomatoes prevent prostate cancer, he insists we eat them every day. They are beginning to make me gag. How solid is the proof that tomatoes can prevent prostate cancer? – W.M.

The tomato has assumed star status when it comes to “healthy” foods. It contains lycopene, a pigment that gives it its red color.

Lycopene is reputed to prevent prostate cancer. The proof is not beyond the shadow of a doubt. It has also been promoted as a prevention for bladder, breast, lung, cervical and skin cancer.

Processed tomatoes – stewed, in sauces or cooked in any fashion – provide more lycopene than raw tomatoes. The processing makes lycopene more readily absorbed.

Watermelon, pink grapefruit, papaya and guava also have lycopene, but in smaller amounts.

Your husband’s tomato fetish is no guarantee for a life free of prostate cancer. It might be a guarantee for a life without a wife.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband and I were wondering if hothouse-grown tomatoes have the same value as those grown outdoors in the sun. – L.A.

Both have approximately the same nutritional value. Outdoor tomatoes, however, have more lycopene than hothouse tomatoes.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 53-year-old male whose motorcycle club regularly donates blood. The last time, the nurse said my heart was skipping some beats. Should I be concerned? Can it be fixed? – E.C.

The skipped beats were probably premature ventricular contractions – beats coming from the bottom heart chambers (ventricles) between normal beats. Be concerned only to mention it to your doctor on your next visit. Rarely are they of significance, and rarely do they need treatment.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.