Entries in Penn State (6)


Could Stress Have Spurred Joe Paterno‚Äôs Rapid Demise?

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Joe Paterno once said he’d die without football in his life. Now, only 74 days after he was fired as head football coach at Penn State University, where the beloved coach stood on the field for 62 seasons, Paterno has died of complications from lung cancer.  Some experts say the stress brought on by the child sex allegations against Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s longtime assistant at Penn, last November could have sped up Paterno’s demise.

“I believe stress can have a profound effect on one’s overall health and outcomes,” said Dr. Edward Kim, associate professor of thoracic head and neck oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. “My personal observations have been that those patients who have positive attitudes and understand their disease tend to do better overall.”

When the Penn State child sex scandal in which Sandusky was accused of 40 counts of child molestation broke two months ago, many said Paterno could and should have done more to protect the boys whom Sandusky allegedly attacked. After the incident hit headlines in November, Paterno said he was “absolutely devastated” by the allegations against Sandusky.

“Mr. Paterno seemed to have a very grounded attitude about life,” said Kim. “He was very loyal to football, Penn State and to himself. My thoughts are that once football ended, he felt a sense of conclusion to his life, and this certainly could have contributed to his overall condition. I have enormous respect for people who can delineate these items with practicality and dignity.”

Nevertheless, Paterno’s health was declining and lung cancer can be a ferocious disease.  The harsh side effects of chemotherapy and radiation make it difficult to treat cancer patients over the age of 80, said experts. While age alone is not used to make cancer treatment decisions, elderly people are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses that may make it difficult to tolerate the aggressive treatments.

“Even if Joe Paterno’s will to live was not damaged by the scandal, the immense stress from the chaos in his life would have certainly weakened him in his fight against cancer,” said Dr. Albert Levy, assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. “Chemotherapy is a harsh treatment method on its own. On an elderly 85-year-old person and someone debilitated emotionally, it would have an even greater impact on his prognosis.”

Paterno’s family announced that the former coach died of metastatic small cell carcinoma of the lung. Relatives decided to withdraw life support Sunday.

“Lung cancer is a devastating disease, and it is my hope that age of patients becomes less important,” said Kim. “Through continued research and clinical trials, we hope to identity specific characteristics about individual patients in order to give them the best most effective therapy.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hockey Star Urges Congress to Fight Child Sex Abuse

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- It is a scandal that has tainted the greatest American sports. From Penn State football to Syracuse basketball, high-profile sexual abuse cases have brought child abuse to the forefront of the national consciousness.

Now the Senate is looking for ways federally mandated programs can prevent these abuses that often persist unreported for years.

On Tuesday, Canadian hockey star Sheldon Kennedy, who was sexually abused by his junior league coach for five years, urged the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families to confront this “nightmare” by instituting training programs for coaches, teachers and mentors who work with children.

“Too often, society’s response to child abuse is to focus on punishing the criminal,” Kennedy said in his written testimony. “Punishing the bad guys makes us feel good, but it does not fully solve the problem.”

Kennedy’s testimony comes the same day that former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is accused sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, waived his right a preliminary hearing to determine if there was enough evidence for a trial.

In spite of the recent uptick in high-profile child sex abuse cases, a study released by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that reported cases of abuse have actually decreased over the last five years. The report estimates that 130,000 fewer children were victimized in 2010 than in 2006.

About 9.2 percent of the 695,000 child abuses cases reported in 2010 were from sexual abuse. Slightly more than 78 percent of the victims suffered neglect and almost 18 percent endured physical abuse, according to the report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Joe Paterno's 'Treatable' Lung Cancer: What It Means

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The family of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno says the lung cancer with which he has been diagnosed is a "treatable form" -- though statistics suggest that even in the best of circumstances, the disease poses a serious threat.

"Last weekend my father was diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness," Paterno's son Scott said in a statement issued Friday. "He is currently undergoing treatment and his doctors are optimistic that he will make a full recovery."

Last week, Penn State's board of trustees fired Paterno, the winningest coach in the history of NCAA Division 1 football, in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal surrounding his defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky. Paterno, considered a legend by many tied to the school, has been embroiled in the scandal based on suggestions that he knew of Sandusky's alleged behavior and failed to do what was necessary to properly report it.

The suggestion that Paterno's cancer is treatable, if true, suggests that it was caught in its early stages before it had a chance to spread. According to statistics from the National Cancer Institute, 52.5 percent of patients whose lung cancer is detected before it has spread are alive five years after it is found.

But only 15 percent of patients are lucky enough to have their cancer detected this early -- and the numbers drop precipitously from there. For the 22 percent of patients whose cancer is only detected after it has spread to the lymph nodes, the chance of being alive five years later is 24.3 percent. And for the 56 percent whose cancer has metastasized, the five-year survival rate is only 3.6 percent.

The upshot: The cancer is far more likely to be in a treatable form for less than four in 10 patients -- and even then, it can be an uphill battle.

At least 20 of the nation's top medical centers are trying to beat this curve by setting up lung cancer screening programs using computerized tomography, or CT. Through these programs, patients considered to be at high risk of lung cancer can be screened, hopefully allowing doctors to detect their disease as early as possible, before it has a chance to spread.

The approach just might work, at least according to research released in June and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The results of the seven-year study offer the first solid evidence that screening with CT scans could reduce lung cancer deaths by as much as 20 percent in high-risk groups, such as heavy smokers older than 55.

Another important factor in the survivability of lung cancer is whether the cancer is classified as "small cell" or "non-small cell." Of these, small cell is the more aggressive. According to NCI data, patients who are diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer tend to have a better chance of survival, at least when the cancer is caught in its earlier stages. In this area, the numbers are slightly more forgiving: Only about 15 percent of the estimated 221,130 Americans who will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year will have the small cell variety, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sex Offenders Often Minimize Behaviors, Say Experts

Jose Luis Pelaez/Stone(NEW YORK) -- Although former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky denied he sexually abused young boys in a national media interview, psychiatrists say one characteristic shared by many sex offenders is the tendency to downplay inappropriate behaviors.

Sandusky admitted to NBC’s Bob Costas that he “horsed around with kids,” and showered with them after workouts, but insisted there was no sexual attraction to the boys.

“It’s a general characteristic of sex offenders to minimize the severity of their actions,” said Dr. Jon Shaw, professor and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine.  Shaw stressed his comment refers to sex offenders in general and not to Sandusky since he is not involved in the case and has not examined Sandusky.

Sexual molestation, said forensic psychiatrist Dr. Harold Bursztajn, is a crime of opportunity that is much more an expression of vanity and aggression than of sexuality.

“There’s a need to protect one’s vanity, which leads people to minimize and rationalize their behavior,” said Bursztajn, a forensic psychiatrist and senior clinical faculty member at Harvard Medical School.  Bursztajn was also referring to offenders in general and not specifically to Sandusky since he is not involved in the case and has not examined Sandusky.

While Sandusky said he only engaged in non-sexual hugging and touching, a former graduate assistant said he saw Sandusky raping a 10-year-old child in the shower.  Sandusky denied that the assault occurred and said the graduate assistant’s account was “false.” Sandusky referred to the incident as “horseplay.”

Bursztajn explained that in cases involving accusations of sexual abuse, experts need to look at all the details and context of each situation before determining whether crimes were committed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Why Do Sex Crimes Against Boys Often Go Unreported?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sex crimes against boys, like the ones that allegedly occurred at Penn State University at the hands of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, often go unreported -- not just by educators and witnesses, but by the victims themselves -- because of the discomfort society feels about male-on-male assaults, particularly in the "hyper-masculine" world of sports.

Authorities say head coach Joe Paterno never went to police about Sandusky's alleged involvement with young boys, even after his graduate assistant coach told him he had witnessed an attack in the school's locker room back in 2002.

The graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, testified to a grand jury that he heard slapping noises and looked in the showers and saw a naked 10-year-old boy "with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky."

But even McQueary, who was 28 at the time, only called his father and waited to report to Paterno the next day.

Experts in child abuse say that Paterno and others could and should have done more.

"There is a certain stigma attached to male-on-male assaults," said Jennifer Marsh, hotline director for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).  "We expect men to be protectors and we find it's much easier to discuss if it's a female victim.

"When a man is a victim it brings it more into their realm -- what if they were involved in this themselves?" she said.  "It's certainly difficult for male victims to reach out and tell what happened, too.  Loved ones shy away and feel uncomfortable."

More than 10 percent of all child abuse victims are male and nearly half of them are under the age of 18, according to RAINN.  An estimated 93 percent of the victims know their attacker.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Nice Guy' Pedophiles Groom Their Victims, Experts Say

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Alan Anderson will never forget the doctor at fishing camp who gave him the attention he was missing at home when he was only 9—but the grandfatherly man turned that affection into sexual molestation.

"The experience was so overwhelming and dark," Anderson. "But I didn't feel that I could talk to anyone. My parents were pretty uninterested in my needs."

Now, 52 and living in Minneapolis, Anderson is an advocate for men who have been abused as boys.

For him it happened again over a three-year period with his piano teacher, starting at age 12. The experiences "put an enormous obstacle for me in finding my own healthy natural sexuality," Anderson said.

The doctor was in his 60s and fit the description of what FBI experts call a "nice guy" molester, one of the least understood in the pedophile world.

His profile resonates in the case of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who has been charged in connection with the molestation of eight boys over a 15-year period, all of whom he met though an underprivileged boy's program that he founded. Police claim one 10-year-old boy was raped in the football locker room shower in 2002.

Sandusky, 67, refused to answer questions, telling ABC News that his lawyers told him not to discuss the case.

The university has barred Sandusky from its campus. The college's athletic director and vice president have stepped down after being charged with allegedly covering up the abuse.

Pedophiles come in many forms, but the one who often gets away with sexual molestation and is least understood is the "nice guy"— not the abusive father or the stranger who kidnaps a child, but the trusted doctor, teacher or coach.

So-called "nice guy" molesters also have a great love of children and often set up programs where they can access them.

"The primary reason most of these guys do this is because they are trying to convince themselves that they are not evil, disgusting perverts and to rationalize and justify what they are doing," said Ken Lanning, a former FBI agent in the behavioral science unit and author of the book, Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis.

Experts don't know why some men develop a sexual interest in young children and whether it is learned or inherited behavior.

Although much of the research says they are often victims of abuse themselves, Lanning said new research refutes that.

"Why are some men aroused by a 5-year-old?" he asked. "Certain events could have taken place in early development for reasons that we don't understand."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio