Q. I've heard the worst pain you can experience is from passing a kidney stone. True?
I had a friend who served in the Royal Air Force in World War II. On a bombing run over Germany, his co-pilot started to pass a kidney stone. The pain was so bad that the poor guy wanted to jump out of the plane. He had to be knocked unconscious.
Kidney stones have been inflicting extreme pain for at least 7,000 years. Evidence of them was found in an Egyptian mummy.
Q: I suffer from hemorrhoids and I suspect a lot of other people do, too, because I see a lot of remedies in drug stores. But this is not a topic you bring up at parties. How many people have hemorrhoids, anyway?
By the age of 50, about half of the population of men and women have hemorrhoids. However, not everyone suffers from the nasty symptoms hemorrhoids can inflict.
Q. I may have to undergo bypass surgery and I heard that it can really mess up your mind. Is that true?
If you have coronary bypass surgery, you could suffer from what some in the heath-care professions call "pump head."
During traditional surgery, a patient is put on a heart-lung bypass pump to oxygenate and circulate blood. This machine may create clots that could harm the brain. In addition, a surgeon handling the aorta (the main heart artery) can free bits of accumulated plaque and they can block blood vessels in the brain.
Last of three parts
Breast cancer strikes most often when men are in their sixties.
Male breast cancer? Men do have breast cells that can become cancerous. The disease is uncommon in men. It represents only 1 percent of all breast cancers. Because of its rarity, many men aren't aware it exists. And that's a problem.
For unknown reasons, the incidence of male breast cancer has been increasing. About 2,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer annually.
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The most common breast cancer symptom is a lump. Other symptoms include swelling, skin irritation, nipple pain or retraction, and an unusual discharge.
Early diagnosis saves lives. The combination of a mammogram, a clinical breast exam and self-exams is recommended by healthcare experts to reduce breast-cancer deaths.
A mammogram is a breast X-ray. If mammography finds an abnormality, confirmation by biopsy is required. In a biopsy, a tissue sample is taken for analysis.
First of three parts
Breast cancer is second, behind lung cancer, as the leading cause of cancer death in women. The chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some time in a woman's life is about 1 in 8.
Q. Is bursitis age-related?
Yes. Bursitis occurs more often as we get older.
Repetitive motions are the worst things for people who tend to get bursitis. Other causes include joint trauma, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and infection.
Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa, which is a small sac filled with fluid. We each have about 160 of these bursae, which act as shock absorbers and grease for our joints. They are buffers between bones and overlapping muscles or between bones and tendons/skin. When bursae become inflamed, they can ache.
Q. Who are the people most liable to be bitten by a dog?
More than 60 percent of the people who are bitten by dogs are children. The elderly are second. And people like mail carriers and meter readers are third.
Children often don't know how to act around dogs and frighten them into aggressive behavior. Older people are more prone to being bitten by an aggressive dog because they tend to be slower and weaker than younger adults. Mail carriers walk onto property the dogs consider their domain to defend.
Q. I usually get a bit light-headed when I stand, but this feeling is much worse when I get up from the dinner table. I don't drink. Any ideas?
There's a possibility you have "postprandial hypotension," or, in layman's language, low blood pressure after a meal. This is a senior malady. Few younger people experience this.
Other possible symptoms include dizziness, blurred vision, nausea and fainting. I recommend going to a doctor to have your symptoms checked.
Q. I get a lot of gas and someone told me it would help if I stopped chewing gum all the time. I am an ex-smoker. That sounds like bunk to me. What do you think?
It's not bunk. When you chew gum, you swallow more often and some of what you're swallowing is air. In addition, artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol that is found in some gums can give you gas.
But, what exactly, is gas?