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Ask Dr. Gott 3/3

Cancer survivor walks long road to health

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DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a breast-cancer survivor. My problem started in July 2001. My back was in severe pain. Six and a half months later, I could not walk. An MRI proved that I had a tumor in my T-9 vertebra, and the vertebra was cracked and causing spinal-cord injury. The vertebra was removed. The original site of the cancer was in my right breast. The tumor in the breast had spread to my spine. I was asked how long I had the dimple in the right breast. Having large breasts, I ignored this dimple for a while, until it spread and I couldn't walk.
    I had spinal surgery, a mastectomy, two rounds of radiation and seven months of chemotherapy. I went back to work January 2003, one year after everything. I am considered handicapped, and, although I can walk, I have extreme nerve damage and can't do a lot of things I used to. But I'm alive. So, readers, please demand that further testing be done on you. Maybe even an MRI.
    DEAR READER: I am publishing your letter as a testimonial to your courage and positive attitude. I am sure you have had your down moments, but I respect and admire you, so I will share your experiences with my readers.
    Your message is worth re-affirming: Women of any age should report any changes in their breasts to a responsible medical professional. Such changes include dimpling, alteration in skin color, asymmetry, painful areas, nipple discharge, lumps and other less common signs of breast malignancies.
    Also, women should remember that standard mammograms are not 100 percent accurate; they can miss certain breast malignancies.             Therefore, if you have symptoms and your doctor favors waiting, override his or her opinion and go for further testing, including ultrasound (with or without biopsy) and MRI.
    Thank you for reminding us that early cancer detection is a priority that can be life saving.
    Annual routine mammograms remain an important disease preventive for women during their reproductive years (and, maybe, beyond). However, more detailed information may be important if a question of malignancy is raised.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Breast Cancer and Disorders." Other readers who would like a copy should send a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope and $2 to Newsletter, PO Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.

    DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a 62-year-old female whose arms and legs have been covered by large and small painless bruises for almost a year now. I take a good multivitamin. My doctor does not respond adequately when I ask for comments or assistance on this unsightly new condition.
    DEAR READER: Although part of the aging process is thinning and easily bruised skin, spontaneous (nontraumatic) bruising can also be the consequence of a bleeding disorder. I recommend that your physician order appropriate blood tests to check for a blood-coagulation problem that may need treatment. Show him or her my answer to your concerns.
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