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Fighting Cancer With Companionship

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For Peter Troiano, the five-year battle against prostate cancer begins in the kitchen.

Even thought he had surgery and radiation, his PSA -- prostate specific antigen, a blood marker for the progression of the cancer -- began to rise, indicating the cancer was still there.

"You just have to wait and see where it pops up and then hope they can treat it," said Troiano.

But rather than wait, Troiano and his wife, Carolyn, joined a new study at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where researchers worked with men and their partners, teaching couples meditation techniques and developing special diets. They hope to prove that these factors can help control the disease.

Initial findings showed that men who ate a mostly vegetarian diet slowed down their rising PSA levels. Some men even saw their PSA go down.

"In eight out of 10 patients we had a response," said urologist Dr. Robert Blute Jr. "In two of the patients it was ... dramatic."

But researchers found the best way to make this diet work is for couples to learn, and work, side by side.

James Carmody, the study's lead researcher, says getting men to change from steak to tofu is not as difficult when you include their wives.

"I don't think the men could make this if we didn't include the wives," said Carmody. "This is truly something that the couple [should] approach together."

Couples Practice New Diet, Meditation

In the study, the couples learned about different foods and how to cook them -- together. One night's menu included endive and beet salad with a walnut vinaigrette dressing, quinoa chili with kidney beans and tofu pumpkin pie for dessert.

"I'll do anything to help him," said Barbara Tuson, who participated in the program with her husband. "I mean, 48 years is a long time; he's not going anywhere in a hurry."

The couples also practice meditation, which not only makes the dietary change easier to handle, but also helps with the stress of "living with" cancer.

"They felt better about themselves, they were less anxious, depression levels went down," said Carmody. "That's good for their health and perhaps impacts on the progression of a life-threatening disease."

Peter and Carolyn Troiano finished the 14-week program in April and have stuck with it. So far Peter's PSA levels have stabilized.

"It's important to have your wife that can do this for you, 'cause I wouldn't have done it at all," said Peter Troiano.

After 46 years of marriage, seven children and 22 grandchildren, they know there isn't much that they can't handle together.

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Copyright 2003 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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