Question: Does smoking or drinking have any effect on whether a person will or will not develop an ulcer?
Answer: Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop ulcers. In addition, the ulcers of smokers take longer to heal, and they are subject to more recurrences and to more complications. Alcohol generally does not appear to have this effect.
Q: My wife and I are planning to take a long-delayed European vacation, but I have emphysema. Will this cause me any problems during the time I am traveling by plane?
A: Some people who have emphysema may benefit from oxygen while they are traveling by plane; others probably should not fly at all. This requires an individual evaluation and I suggest you discuss your plans with your physician.
Q: Is there anything new on the use of interferon for patients with cancer? I imagine it has not been found to be as helpful as many people thought it would be, or I imagine we would have heard a lot more about it by now.
A: Investigators at the Oregon Health Services University in Portland have reported that interferon appears to be of value in the treatment of ovarian cancer. Moreover, the side effects of treatment were limited.
Q: I am going to have a gallbladder operation, and my doctor has given me instructions that sound like what my mother used to tell me. What I mean is that I am not supposed to smoke or drink, and I am supposed to eat the proper foods and not try to diet. I know that surgery can be serious, but why all this fuss about no smoking, no drinking and eating a good diet?
A: Your physician's emphasis on no smoking and no drinking before you undergo surgery has to do with tobacco's effect on the lungs and alcohol's effect on the liver. Dr. Richard Liszewski of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark explains that it is important that a patient's lungs function efficiently when he or she is being anesthetized. Another reason is that the surgery will result in the patient's being less active for a while.
In addition, a surgical patient should not use alcohol because it has the potential for damaging the liver. Some anesthetics are broken down in the liver, and the organ should be in the best possible condition when surgery is planned.
Sound nutrition for the surgical patient is also important since it helps the patient withstand the surgery and speeds recovery. For those reasons, a patient should not use the period of hospitalization as a time to lose some weight.
Q: I have pollen allergy. Any specific tips?
A: In theory, one way to avoid an allergen is to move to another location where the plant responsible does not grow. This is not always practical, however, since there might be a need to change jobs, school, friends, etc., and besides the person with a pollen allergy may very well become allergic to a different pollen in his new location.
Partial avoidance can be achieved without moving. Many people take their vacations during the pollinating period and choose a place which is free from the specific pollen.
Direct contact with the pollen (picking flowers and twigs, having flowers indoors) should be avoided.
It is useful to keep bedroom windows closed to prevent the wind bringing in pollens. It is also advisable to air bed linen in the morning when the pollen count is at its lowest.
When there is a lot of pollen in the air--e.g., a hot, dry day--it may be necessary to stay indoors with the doors and windows closed.
Q: I have read that obesity runs in families but that it is not inherited. Isn't this a contradiction? If it isn't, I would appreciate an explanation of why it is not.
A: Since a child of obese parents is at risk of becoming obese himself or herself, one may conclude that obesity does run in families. What is not clear, however, is whether the child's obesity is genetically determined or whether it is related to the environment.
Some researchers who have studied obesity in children maintain that obese children are the product of families in which the mother is overprotective and uses food as an expression of affection. While this may be true in some cases, my experience with my own patients suggests that it is not true in all cases.