DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I had prostate cancer in 2004. The doctors removed my prostate gland. Are there any studies on or is there such a thing as an artificial prostate gland? Life is not the same anymore. I am 59 and always had a very good sex life with my wife. We’ve been married 31 years. I would do anything, including being in a study, to regain that life. – F.B.

ANSWER: You don’t need an artificial gland to regain an active sex life. Medicines often work.

Blood flooding the penis produces an erection. Part of that complicated process involves nerves that open up arteries to increase blood flow. Those nerves are in close proximity to the prostate gland, and they often are injured during surgery. However, since the 1980s, when “nerve-sparing” prostate-gland operations became standard, the incidence of erectile dysfunction following prostate-gland surgery has been greatly reduced. Now 60 percent to 85 percent of men who had their prostate removed retain sexual function, whereas previously close to 100 percent lost it.

So why did this happen to you? It might be nothing more than time. It can take those nerves two years to recover after surgery. In the meantime, potency medicines can be of great help. Viagra, Cialis and Levitra have restored potency to many men. Other medicines include alprostadil, which comes as a self-injection liquid or as a pellet that’s easily inserted into the urethra. Vacuum devices are also available to draw blood into the penis. If, after two years, spontaneous erections have not returned and if you don’t want to use medicines, then penile implants can restore sexual activity. Talk to your surgeon about these options.

The booklet on the prostate gland discusses gland enlargement and cancer. 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 $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: When I was 7, I came down with yellow jaundice. I don’t hear that expression used anymore. Don’t people get that illness nowadays? I remember being very sick. My mother later told me that the doctor thought I was going to die. I fooled all of them. I am now 87 and feel like 27. – P.G.

ANSWER: Jaundice comes from the French word for yellow. People with jaundice have yellow skin, and the whites of their eyes turn yellow.

The color comes from a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin, in turn, comes from worn-out red blood cells. A healthy liver grabs hold of bilirubin and prepares it for elimination. If the liver isn’t healthy, bilirubin blood levels rise and people turn yellow-jaundiced.

Most likely you had hepatitis. You probably had hepatitis A, which used to be called infectious hepatitis. It can make people very sick, but it rarely kills. It doesn’t cause permanent liver damage like other kinds of hepatitis can.

I don’t think it is the reason you are so healthy at age 87.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I gave up chocolate as a matter of maintaining good health. I have switched to carob, which I really like. Does it truly offer big health advantages over chocolate? – R.D.

ANSWER: Carob smells, looks and tastes much like chocolate. It has less fat but more carbohydrates than chocolate. If you are on a very strict low-fat diet, carob provides an advantage. If you’re not, there is not a great health benefit from eating it in preference to chocolate. If you like it, that’s a different matter. Taste should be an important consideration in what we eat.

Have you read any of the reports that have turned chocolate into a health bonanza? That’s overblowing matters somewhat, but chocolate has many things in its favor, so long as you don’t eat it by the pound.

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. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.


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