Warren Buffett says he’s feeling good after radiation therapy

Apparently Warren Buffett (“the sage of Omaha”) is recovering well after 6 weeks of radiation therapy for what appears to have been low-risk, localized prostate cancer. Of course whether he really needed this treatment at all has never been entirely clear.

Mr Buffett stated that he had found the treatment “tiring” in an interview on CNBC. This is hardly surprising considering his relative youth. (Mr. Buffet is 82 years of age.)

It has also been stated that his cancer was “not considered life-threatening because it was caught early” (according to an Associated Press report). To The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink, this sounds like another indication that Mr. Buffett’s treatment may, in fact, have been utterly unnecessary … but then he certainly has the resources to do exactly as he sees fit when it comes to his personal health care! And his financial acumen provides strong evidence that he may be better at making sound risk decisions over time than the current writer!

12 Responses

  1. Maybe he thinks it will extend his life. He is sure as smart as you can be based on our present way of thinking.

  2. It’s interesting that Buffett decided on any treatment. Watchful waiting sounded like the best thing for him to do with low grade risk. But he is not the one that did all of his own research. It was probably all arranged by staff … and often times in cases like this, physicians never see the patient until the procedure. I’m not sure business acumen parallels sound decisions.

  3. “Low-risk, localized prostate cancer” may be Buffett PR. I too (aged 70) just completed 9 weeks (45 days) of radiation treatment and, though side effects were minimal, I was exhausted at the end of the ninth week. Now, 3 weeks later, I’m feeling much better. Was it necessary treatment? I trusted in my doctors’ recommendations (and my own pretty extensive research) and watchful waiting was not a recommended option given the velocity of my PSA number increase over a 2-year span. It took four biopsies to find it, too. I understand that most older men die with it, not from it, but I am comfortable with my decision.

    What I am not comfortable with is the government’s recommendation to skip PSA testing.

  4. Dear JS:

    Your personal decisions about treatment (like Mr. Buffett’s) are entirely up to you. However, I would be remiss if I did not note that “the government” has never suggested that men should “skip” PSA testing. An independent advisory panel (the US Preventive Services Task Force) has stated that, in its opinion, there is no good evidence to suggest that the benefits of annual PSA screening outweigh the risks associated with such screening in otherwise healthy men, which is a very different matter.

  5. Dear Sitemaster,

    IMO semantics. From the ahrq.gov (note, .gov) webiste: “When Congress authorized the USPSTF, it required the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support the Task Force’s work. The 1998 Public Health Service Act and the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act instruct AHRQ to provide administrative, research, technical, and communication support to the Task Force. As part of this support, AHRQ helps with day-to-day operations, coordinates the production of evidence reports, ensures consistent use of Task Force methods, and helps disseminate Task Force materials and recommendations. The Director of AHRQ also appoints new USPSTF members, with guidance from the Chair of the Task Force.”

    May be “independent” but overseen and supported by a government agency.

    I am one of the “otherwise healthy men.” If no PSA testing is done, how would the (possible) cancer be detected in an early and treatable stage? What am I missing here?

  6. Dear JS:

    What you seem to be “missing” here necessitates discussion of at least some of the following:

    (1) No government agency has told you (or anyone else) that you can not have a PSA test. One “independent” agency (we can quibble over the semantics) has expressed an opinion about the clinical value of this test. They are far from being unique in having expressed that opinion.

    (2) Since I know nothing whatsoever about your diagnosis or treatment, I have no way to know whether it is possible that either your diagnosis or your treatment or both may actually have been clinically necessary. Indeed, you may not know that either. What I do know is that there are a lot of data to suggest that we are currently unnecessarily treating somewhere between 15 and 40% of all men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer and something like 50% of all men diagnosed with low-risk, localized disease.

    (3) Equally, I have no idea whether there have been adverse effects associated with your treatment (e.g., do you have any degree of post-treatment incontinence or sexual dysfunction, etc.?). If you do, and your treatment was potentially unnecessary, then you may well have been over-treated. In which case you have lost quality of life with no definable clinical benefit. (A lot of men seem to have a hard time understanding this because they are under the impression that their low-risk prostate cancer was going to kill them, which is customarily not the case.)

  7. Dear Sitemaster:

    “Indeed, you may not know that either.” Ageed.

    Going in, I was not under the impression that my cancer would kill me, but that it might, somewhere down the road (as might something else since our chance of dying eventually is 100%).

    With odds of 85/15 or even 60/40, that treatment is necessary, I believed treatment to be the better decision (for me).

    That’s my final word – I’ve enjoyed this discourse. Keep up the good work with your reporting. I read it fathfully and find it to be especially informative.

  8. I wonder if Mr. Buffett was experiencing urgency incontinence, hematuria, dysuria, rectal pain or worsening sexual function he would make it known to the general public. “Mr. Buffett feeling good after radiation therapy” is not a news story … it’s propaganda.

  9. Dear Dr. Kelly:

    Maybe you are correct and it is no more than propaganda.

    Conversely, maybe you are wrong and it is a simple and honest statement from a man who a lot of people have a good deal of respect for.

  10. Just goes to show what happens when you say the “C” word to the most sensible man in the world. He immediately freaks out and signs up for over-treatment.

    And of course he feels fine. Urinary incontinence isn’t really a huge problem for IMRT patients, and impotence doesn’t tap you on the shoulder until at least a year after treatment.

  11. Great news about Mr. Buffett.

    I’d like to report on an 81-year-old gentleman in the ICU at my local hospital in Santa Monica who just received his third unit of blood after a massive bladder hemorrhage, years after his IMRT. This is his third admission for this problem in the last 2 years. Would you like to call him and ask what he thinks of radiation therapy? He’s not as newsworthy as Mr. Buffett, but he has a keen sense of sarcasm.

  12. Dr. Kelly, I am so impressed by your candidness on IMRT. As a past prostate cancer patient, I would love to find forums with physicians sharing similar stories of successes as well as possible issues radiation patients are exposed to with updates. To uninformed patients … how do we disaggregate the data?

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