Archive for December, 2013

What are the treatment options for hyperthyroidism?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What are the treatment options for hyperthyroidism? Can you discuss the pros and cons of each one?

DEAR READER: The thyroid gland in your neck makes thyroid hormone. This chemical circulates in the blood and affects the functioning of every cell in your body. It is essential for life, but you need to have just the right amount circulating, not too much and not too little.

How can I help my teenage son quit smoking?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently discovered that my teenage son is smoking. How can I help him quit?

DEAR READER: Parents can do many things to help their teens quit smoking. First and foremost, if you smoke, stop. It will be hard for your teen to take you seriously if you're telling him to do something you won't do.

Can you explain how high cholesterol causes a heart attack or stroke?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Can you explain how high cholesterol causes a heart attack or stroke?

DEAR READER: Cholesterol is a type of fat that travels in the bloodstream. Our bodies need some cholesterol to survive. But high levels of cholesterol in the blood -- particularly low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or "bad" cholesterol -- increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

I’m drawing up a living will — Can you explain the medical terms I’m encountering?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm drawing up a living will, but I don't understand many of the medical terms I'm encountering. Can you help?

DEAR READER: Many people, certainly including me, have asked themselves how they would want to be cared for if they became very sick and unable to speak for themselves. The two most common ways of doing that are to designate one trusted person, such as your spouse, who knows your wishes to make decisions for you -- a health care proxy. Another is for you to write a living will.

Can you tell me what the different breast biopsy techniques involve?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor saw something suspicious on my mammogram and wants to do a breast biopsy. I understand there are several biopsy techniques. Can you tell me what they involve?

DEAR READER: The invention of mammograms (X-rays of the breast) has saved many lives. Mammograms can spot a small, early breast cancer, and help doctors cure it.

Can you explain what the “placebo effect” means?

DEAR DOCTOR K: In previous columns you've mentioned something called the "placebo effect." Can you explain what that means?

DEAR READER: We used to think the placebo effect was imaginary. Today, I think the evidence indicates otherwise: It's an example of our remarkable powers of self-healing.

I have to start taking insulin for my Type 2 diabetes — What do I need to know before I start?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have to start taking insulin for my Type 2 diabetes. It sounds complicated. What do I need to know before I start?

DEAR READER: The first thing you need to know is that it is simple to learn and do, and the discomfort is minimal. Tens of millions of people all over the world do it every day -- and probably most of them were afraid that it would be complicated and painful before they actually started taking insulin.

Why does marriage have such a positive effect on patients with cancer?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I read about a study that said married cancer patients do better than those who aren't married. Why does marriage have such a positive effect?

DEAR READER: You're probably talking about a study that was published earlier this year in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The study included about 735,000 people diagnosed with 10 different types of cancer. Married men were 23 percent less likely to die of cancer than those who were single, widowed or divorced.

Why does my stomach clench up in knots when I’m stressed?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Whenever I'm stressed out my stomach clenches up in knots. Why does it do that?

DEAR READER: A particularly sad experience is described as "gut-wrenching." Hearing about a gruesome crime makes you "feel nauseated." An upcoming presentation gives you "butterflies in your stomach." We use these expressions because anger, anxiety, sadness, elation and other emotions can trigger symptoms in our gastrointestinal tract.