Saturday, May 14th, 2011
Archive for May, 2011
Monday, May 23rd, 2011
Anytime the presence of cancer is suspected, the person involved is likely to react with great anxiety, fear, and anger. Emotional distress is sometimes so intense that the person is unable to serve as his or her own best advocate in making critical health care decisions. If you find it difficult to know what to ask your doctor on a routine exam, imagine how hard it would be to discuss life or death options for yourself or a loved one. Having a list of important questions to ask when you appear at the doctor’s office may help tremendously. Remember, your health care provider should be your partner in making the best decisions for you. By actively challenging, questioning, and letting the physician know your wishes, difficult decisions may become easier.
If the diagnosis is cancer, you may want to ask these questions:
- What kind of cancer do I have? What stage is it in? Based on my age and stage, what type of prognosis do I have?
- What are my treatment choices? Which do you recommend? Why?
- What are the expected benefits of each kind of treatment?
- What are the long- and short-term risks and possible side effects?
- Would a clinical trial be appropriate for me? (Clinical trials are research studies designed to answer specific questions and to find better ways to prevent or treat cancer. Often new cancer-fighting treatments are used.)
If surgery is recommended, you may want to ask these questions:
- What kind of operation will it be, and how long will it take? What form of anesthesia will be used? How many similar procedures has this surgeon done in the past month? What is his or her success rate?
- How will I feel after surgery? If I have pain, how will you help me?
- Where will the scars be? What will they look like? Will they cause disability?
- Will I have any activity limitations after surgery? What kind of physical therapy, if any, will I have? When will I get back to normal activities?
If radiation is recommended, you may want to ask these questions:
- Why do you think this treatment is better than my other options?
- How long will I need to have treatments, and what will the side effects be in the short and long term? What body organs or systems may be damaged?
- What can I do to take care of myself during therapy? Are there services available to help me?
- What is the long-term prognosis for people of my age with my type of cancer who are using this treatment?
If chemotherapy is recommended, you may want to ask these questions:
- Why do you think this treatment is better than my other options?
- Which drug combinations pose the fewest risks and most benefits?
- What are the short- and long-term side effects on my body?
- What are my options?
Before beginning any form of cancer therapy, it is imperative that you be a vigilant and vocal consumer. Read and seek information from cancer support groups. Check the skills of your surgeon, your radiation therapist, and your doctor in terms of clinical work and interpersonal interactions. The time spent asking these questions and seeking information is well worth the effort.
Many people with BDD seek and receive unnecessary medical and surgical evaluation and treatment. Doctors often refuse to provide such treatment because the defect is so minimal they consider treatment unnecessary. Several men I’ve seen have even been turned down by hair clubs. But some people nonetheless persist in their search for a doctor who will give them what they want. Some receive treatment after treatment—even surgery after surgery—hoping that the next one will finally provide the relief they so desperately seek.
This behavior can take the place of living. Abby, who told me she’d seen just about every dermatologist in Chicago, described this behavior as “just about all I do. The doctors I saw said my skin wasn’t so terrible. Some of them thought I was crazy. So off I’d go to find another one. It’s how I spend my days—going to skin doctors.”
While most people who have cosmetic surgery are happy with the result, this doesn’t seem to be the case for people with BDD. Most are unhappy with the outcome and blame themselves or the doctor for having made a serious mistake. For some, preoccupation and suffering diminish temporarily, only to return. Or the bodily preoccupation may shift to another area.
Rarely, people with BDD who are dissatisfied with medical or surgical treatment are violent toward the doctor who provided it. There are several reported cases of violence, even murder or attempted murder, toward a physician who the patient thought had ruined his or her appearance. Occasionally, people with BDD sue, even though the treatment outcome appears acceptable to others. Large amounts of money may be spent seeking and receiving such treatments, to no avail. In some cases, life savings are depleted.
Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
Productive cough, shortness of breath, and fever are symptoms of tuberculosis and pneumonia caused by certain common types of bacteria; these symptoms may also be caused by PCP, certain viruses, Kaposi’s sarcoma in the lung, and several other unusual conditions.
Tuberculosis (TB)-The most common symptoms of TB are cough, bloody sputum, shortness of breath, fever, weight loss, chest pain with breathing, and night sweats. As with PCP, the tempo of tuberculosis is generally slow, usually progressing over a period of weeks or months. During this time the person is usually fatigued, has night sweats, and loses weight. TB can occur in the lung, but it can spread to almost any part of the body. People with HIV infection often have TB relatively early in the course of the infection, when the CD4 count is fairly high: TB
apparently has enough clout that it does not require a severely weakened immune system to cause disease.
TB, which is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, can be active or inactive. When it is active, the bacterium is reproducing and the person has symptoms of TB. When it is inactive, Mycobacterium tuberculosis is dormant in the lung, much the way
Pneumocystis carinii is dormant in the lung. People with inactive TB have no symptoms, and all cultures for Mycobacterium tuberculosis are negative.
The only way to find out whether a person has been infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the skin test most people are familiar with, done on the forearm. The skin test is a shallow injection of a protein called a purified protein derivative, or PPD, made from Mycobacterium tuberculosis. If the area around the injection become red and thickened two or three days later, the person’s immune system has already responded to the bacterium. In other words, a positive skin test means that Mycobacterium tuberculosis is in the body and the person has TB, either active or inactive. The only other evidence of infection might be a chest x-ray showing the scars of previous infections with TB that the person may be unaware of. Most, though not all, people with active TB have had inactive TB for several years previously.
If the skin test is positive, it is followed by sputum tests for TB and x-rays. If the sputum test is also positive, if symptoms are ascribed to TB, or if the x-ray shows new changes, the person has active TB. Otherwise, the TB is inactive.
It is especially important for people with HIV infection to have a skin test. Inactive TB can be treated with a drug, isoniazid (INH), that will prevent active TB. Active TB is treated more aggressively, with three or more drugs.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis must be distinguished from a related microbe called Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare, or MAI. MAI causes infections in many organs throughout the body. This distinction between Mycobacterium tuberculosis and MAI is important, not only for deciding what the treatment should be, but also for preventing transmission. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the only contagious mycobacterial infection, can be transmitted from one person to another by close contact over a period of several months. For this reason, the people most likely to be infected are those who live with the infected person. But an infected person who has been treated with drugs against TB for several days is unlikely to transmit the infection to others. This means that once treatment has started, the likelihood that it will be spread to others is reduced or nil. The standard recommendation for testing those people who have been exposed to TB for long periods is to do the skin test, and if it is positive, to follow it with chest x-rays.