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Ask Dr. Gott 12/15

Breathing problems need prompt attention

    DEAR DR. GOTT: I had my left lung removed three years ago because of lung cancer. I spent 42 days in the hospital due to an infection of chest fluid, was discharged and was back in a week with pneumonia. After my final discharge, I had five weeks of radiation therapy, chest X-rays every six months and a CT scan every year since. I have had bone scans and MRIs. I had a complete heart work-up since two heart enzymes were slightly elevated, and heart specialists says my cardiovascular system is in fine shape. The only thing is my cholesterol is around 245 to 250. I am 67, 5 feet 6 inches, weigh 128 pounds and could not gain a pound if I tried. Before the surgery in July 2001, I was backpacking in the Rocky Mountains, walking miles daily up to 11,000 feet and not even breathing hard. My surgeon and family doctor all say everything is negative. So why does my coughing, congestion, soreness, fatigue, shortness of breath and continual pain in the area of incision keep getting worse? Should I be seeing an oncologist?
    DEAR READER: Lung cancer can be tricky. For example, certain forms may not be visible on scanning but can cause symptoms anyway. I’m concerned that your lungs have been traumatized by surgery, cancer, infection, effusion (fluid build-up) and radiation. This trauma — plus the loss of your left lung — could well be the cause of your symptoms. However, the fact that these symptoms are worsening gives me cause for further concern: Could your malignancy be hiding in lymph glands or right-sided pulmonary tissue? If not, what can be done to improve your quality of life? Although I don’t expect you to continue backpacking, I believe that your symptoms of pain, shortness of breath and fatigue need to be addressed.
    So, my long-winded answer to your question is, yes, you should see an oncologist, although I don’t doubt that he or she will agree with your other doctors.
    I must take this opportunity to encourage you to accept the consequences of your malady. If you can’t hike, at least walk. Use analgesic medication to control your pain. Consider supplemental oxygen for your breathing difficulty, work with your doctors to have necessary follow-up testing, accept the restrictions of illness and obtain counseling or psychological support. Take that trip you have always dreamed about to the Virgin Islands.
    Let me know your oncologist’s advice. Your problem is not unique, but I welcome a follow-up.

    DEAR DR. GOTT: My friend said she read that children who eat sugar go on to have diabetes as adults. Please explain that sugar does not cause diabetes.
    DEAR READER: Although excessive sugar intake does not, by itself, cause diabetes, it is often associated with morbid obesity and metabolic stress that are associated with diabetes. Obviously, diabetics should avoid sugar consumption. For nondiabetics, moderation is key. Appropriate weight loss in overweight children is advisable.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my health Report “Diabetes Mellitus.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope and $2 to Newsletter, PO Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44091-0167. Be sure to mention the title. 

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