Archive for April 9th, 2009

BODY SIGNAL ALERT BREASTS, ENLARGED: DESCRIPTION AND POSSIBLE MEDICAL PROBLEMS

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Among men who regularly work out with weights, firm, defined pectoral muscles are a sign of a well-exercised body. Some people think they’re sexy, while others get turned off if they think they look too much like a woman’s breasts.

However, no matter what your personal feelings are on the issue, if you notice that one or both of your breasts have grown larger recently, you need to see your doctor.

If both breasts feel fleshy and firm and the nipples are pointing slightly downward, you probably have a condition called gynecomastia, which is a frequent side effect of anabolic steroid use and heavy weight training. Sometimes, however, gynecomastia can occur if you have too much estrogen in your system. If your breasts suddenly get bigger and you’re not currently taking anabolic steroids as a muscle enhancement or medication, then you should see your doctor.

Gynecomastia can also result from the presence of a benign or malignant tumor, although a tumor almost always affects just one breast, at least in the beginning. An enlargement will feel like a solid mass, while a tumor tends to be both smaller and harder. Especially in older men, when one breast grows larger, it may be a sign of a tumor.

But breast cancer—or any abnormality in the breast—is extremely rare in men, though it does occur. For every 100 women who get breast cancer, for instance, only 1 man will develop it. Since most men aren’t aware that they can get breast cancer, they rarely check for it or even notice changes in their breasts. As a result, when breast cancer is diagnosed in a man, it’s usually too late.

An underlying liver disease or endocrine disorder may also be responsible for your enlarged breasts. If you’re exhibiting other signs of these diseases—such as jaundice and impotence in the case of liver disease, or sudden loss or gain of weight and fatigue in the case of endocrine disorders—see your doctor immediately. Another cause of gynecomastia in men is certain medications, particularly the drug cimetidine, which is commonly used to treat ulcers, and digoxin, which is prescribed for patients with heart arrhythmia.

Frequently, men who are overweight will develop lipomastia, a form of breast enlargement. In this case, larger breasts are due to an increased distribution of fat all over the body, with some of it settling in the breasts.

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THE POSSIBLE CAUSES OF COLON CANCER

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Researchers have been studying the possible causes of colon cancer for years; in most cases, colon cancer occurs in the lower part of the intestine. Some say it is due to genetics, while others blame the typical sedentary American lifestyle and high-fat, low-fiber diet. However, they have found that the risk of colon cancer increases in families that have a history of intestinal polyps. If you are at risk for colon cancer and have shown signs of a change in appetite, weight loss, depression, or chronic diarrhea, your doctor will conduct one or more of the following common tests:

• A complete history andphysical exam. This will help your doctor discover a possible genetic link or a recent change

in your bowel habits.

• Lab tests. These may include a blood test, a liver test,

and a hemocult test, which is a simple at-home test to help you check for hidden blood in the stool, which is often the first sign of cancer.

• A digital exam. Your doctor will use a gloved finger to check

for growths in your rectum, since many cancers are within the reach of the finger.

• An anuscope. This is a device used to check the lower part of the rectum

• A sigmoidoscope. This is a small, flexible tube your doctor can use to look into the lower part of the large intestine.

• A colonoscope. This is similar to a sigmoidoscope, but it is longer to enable your doctor to examine the entire large intestine. If your doctor wants to perform a colonoscopy, you will need to be mildly sedated.

• A barium enema. This is an X-ray exam that is usually performed on an outpatient basis. A barium enema is usually used when your doctor suspects you have divetticular disease or polyps or a mechanical problem with the intestine.

• An upper GI series. This is another kind of X-ray exam in which you swallow barium on an empty stomach to allow your doctor to view your intestine more closely.

After the diagnosis of colon cancer is confirmed by some or all of these tests, along with, possibly, a CAT scan to see if the cancer has spread, the usual treatment is surgical removal of the tumor, although chemotherapy and radiation may also be used. The bowel will also need to be reattached; the procedure involves a hospitalization period of about two weeks.

Before the tumor is removed, however, your doctor will administer a blood test called the CEA antigen test, which will be used not as a screening tool but as a benchmark for future CEA tests after the tumor has been removed to check that the cancer has not reappeared.

If the tumor was located in the lower part of the intestine, close to the rectum, reattachment of the bowel may not be possible. In this case, a colostomy bag will be necessary. This does not carry the stigma that it once did, even a few years ago. People who wear a colostomy bag can lead active, productive lives without anyone else knowing they have had a colostomy, since the new appliances have no leakage and no smell.

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COUGHING WHILE EATING

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Description and Possible Medical Problems

We’ve all had a piece of food go down the “wrong pipe.” Fortunately, for most of us, this kind of episode stops just short of requiring the Heimlich maneuver. While it may cause a temporary sore throat and loss of appetite, it’s not a serious problem.

For people who are frail and elderly, however, it’s another story. In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to cough while they’re eating or drinking. This especially tends to happen if a family member is feeding them, as the role reversal tends to make both parent and child tense.

In the elderly, the swallowing mechanism can become progressively weaker due to chronic illness, a stroke, or advanced dementia as caused by Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, food can very easily go down into the windpipe, or trachea, which can potentially be very dangerous. Small amounts of food in the trachea can cause a lung infection called aspiration that can lead to aspiration pneumonia, a condition that can be lethal in a person whose immune system is already weakened by age and disease. Aspiration pneumonia requires hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics.

If an elderly relative often coughs while he’s eating, his family should consult with his physician, who may contact an ear, nose, and throat specialist and/or even a speech language pathologist with expertise in swallowing disorders. Either of these specialists may perform special “dysphasia evaluations,” which check a person’s ability to swallow various types of food. These specialists may then recommend dietary adjustments (such as pureeing certain foods) to relieve the difficulties in swallowing.

Treatment

If your elderly relative has developed aspiration pneumonia, hospitalization is necessary. This will include a complete course of intravenous antibiotics. If feeding becomes a consistent problem despite treatment, it may become necessary to insert a feeding tube into the patient’s stomach for a short time to make sure he gets the nutrition he needs.

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BODY SIGNAL ALERT RASH: TREATMENT

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

If the rash is generalized and appears over a large area of your body, a new medication is usually the culprit. Your doctor will recommend that you stop using the medication; he’ll suggest an alternative. He’ll also advise you to apply calamine lotion or over-the-counter Benadryl three or four times a day to soothe the itching. If the rash appears as a small area of bloodlike pimples on your lower legs and ankles, it may be due to a low platelet count, and the treatment will include drug therapy to increase the count, along with dietary iron supplementation. If the rash appears under the breast or in the groin, you probably have a fungal infection that is often seen in diabetics and obese people. Treatment will be in the form of an antifungal ointment such as Lotrimin three times a day.

If the rash appears as a redness around an area of skin that has recently been traumatized or broken, the cause is usually an infection, and treatment will consist of an antibiotic such as Keflex or Cipro taken by mouth. If the rash is particularly severe, you may need to be hospitalized in order to receive the antibiotic intravenously.

If the rash occurs on one side of your body, starting on your back and continuing around to the front of your torso, and the appearance of the rash is preceded by tingling and pain, you probably have shingles or the herpes zoster virus. Treatment will consist of a medication called Zovirax that can be taken orally or spread on in a cream to speed recovery. A viral rash or one that’s caused by a drug reaction may be flat and might itch.

If the rash occurs on your face and itches and is accompanied by pain and fever, and if you never had chicken pox when you were a kid, you should see your doctor right away. Chicken pox can be severe when it occurs in an adult, and a medication such as Zovirax will be used to treat it.

If the rash appears on your hands and feet and in your mouth, and you also have malaise and a fever, you probably have a common summertime virus called a coxsackievirus. This virus lasts about a week, and there is no known treatment for it.

Finally, if the rash occurs in a series of small clusters or as a large sore on your genitalia, possibly accompanied by a discharge of pus from the urethra, you may have herpes or gonorrhea, which will need to be treated with medication.

Again, since all these conditions require a doctor’s attention, the moment you notice a rash starting to form, you should contact your physician for advice on what to do.

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TONGUE, BLACK, HAIRY

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Description and Possible Medical Problems

When you were a kid, your imagination may have run away with you at night when you thought you saw a black, hairy monster under the bed, and you called for Mom and Dad to come take a look.

Now that you’re an adult, the sudden appearance of a black, hairy tongue is just as disturbing as it was when you were a kid. Your imagination may also take over just as it did in childhood, as you ponder the possible causes and come close to driving yourself to the emergency room.

Relax. Have you been taking penicillin or other antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection? If your tongue turns black or brownish in color, it’s probably in response to a lengthy course of antibiotic treatment. The papillae, or tiny, hairlike protrusions on the tongue, can turn dark due to a proliferation of bacterial growth on the tongue. In addition to the color change, you may have bad breath, due to the foul odor of the excess bacteria.

If you’re a cigarette or pipe smoker, regular use of tobacco products can also cause a black, hairy tongue.

Treatment

A black, hairy tongue is harmless. Once you stop taking antibiotics, your tongue should return to normal.

If you still have a few days or weeks to go on your antibiotic therapy, however, you can improve your oral hygiene in the meantime by brushing and/or scraping your tongue at least once a day or as often as you need to.

And if you smoke and you believe this is the cause of your black, hairy tongue, my best advice is simply to stop.

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