Queries from readers

Is there a blood test for brain cancer?

Soon there will be. A new study reveals a promising simple blood test that could help detect brain cancer with 87 percent accuracy. This exciting revelation was reported in the journal Nature Communications by Dr. Matthew J. Baker of the Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry at the University of Strathclyde i n Glasgow, United Kingdom. Brain cancer usually has a poor outlook because of the delay in the diagnosis since the symptoms, primarily headache, are nonspecific. This new blood test would expedite the diagnosis and improve the outcome.

How do injuries cause acute kidney failure?

Muscle injuries from any trauma can lead to rapid breakdown of skeletal muscles (rhabdomyolysis) causing muscle pains, weakness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, tea-colored urine, and irregular heartbeat. One of the breakdown products is a protein called myoglobin, which is harmful to the kidney, which may lead to acute renal (kidney) failure. This condition happens annually to about 26,000 people (many of them seniors) in the United States. The first reported description of rhabdomyolysis was in 1908, following an earthquake, and the mechanism of the condition only understood 33 years later, in 1941, during the Blitz of London.

Do repeated chest x-rays cause cancer?

No, an annual chest x-ray does not cause cancer. The dose of radiation that one gets with a chest x-ray is so minimal, about 30 millirems, which is even less than the radiation exposure one gets from traveling by air (where you will be exposed to a greater degree of radiation from the sun) for a 4-hour flight.  The cut-off safety limit per year is 5000 millirems, which would be equivalent to about 166 chest x-ray exposures. A chest x-ray once a year, or even 20 such radiation exposures in a year, is safe. The basic rule is, of course, the lesser radiation the better, but if it medically necessary x-rays should be performed without worry.

Do I have to finish the antibiotics prescribed for me?

Physicians prescribe specific antibiotics for specific infection (bacteria). From clinical research done by the drug companies on each antibiotic they produce, specific recommendation for the standard dosage and the length of treatment is derived and made to effect a “cure.” It is advisable for you to finish the full course of antibiotic that your physician has prescribed for you, otherwise the bacteria may not be fully decimated and the infection might recur after a few days.

Is Viagra addicting?

No, Viagra is not addicting. Before you try it, though, I suggest you consult with your physician first, to make sure there is no contraindication in your case. If none, Viagra should help take care of your problem, if, indeed, it is caused by anxiety. Viagra is truly a wonder drug, if taken properly under medical supervision.

I have frequent headaches. Can this be serious?

This column is meant to provide medical information for public education. Since it will not be medically proper for the writer to make diagnosis or give prognosis through this forum, the answers we will give here will be in generality and an overview. Consult your physician for details and management. There are many causes of headaches. It could range from simple eyestrain, benign stress or tension, allergy-related, to hypertension, migraine; to headaches caused by a brain tumor, infection or bleeding in or around the brain. In view of this, early and proper diagnosis is essential. See you physician soon.

Can one get AIDS from holding hands?

Experts say that HIV infection is not transmitted by holding hands or (intact) skin to skin contact, but mucous membrane contact with blood or body fluids from someone infected with HIV, unprotected sexual intercourse with AIDS victim can definitely transmit this deadly disease. The best behavior is to avoid partners that are at high risk of having HIV, but if this is not possible, use condom. One must be cautious to make sure the condom is durable, intact and not have a hole in it. One could get the HIV infection even after only one, yes just one, sexual encounter. Remember, having AIDS is like having a death sentence hanging over your head.

I developed painful urination on our honeymoon, why?

This is not uncommon, but mostly preventable. This condition is called Honeymoon Cystitis, which is urinary infection due to trauma and bacterial contamination during sex. This could also happen anytime in our life for the same reason. This is why we recommend partners to take a shower or a bath, wash their hands thoroughly, etc., before (and after) sex, and be reasonably gentle and not violent during the act. If the symptoms persist for more than a day, consult your physicians, who will evaluate your condition and most likely prescribe the appropriate antibiotics for your urinary infection. Be careful because repeated infection could lead to more serious complication

Must all groin hernias be operated on?

This depends on the size and whether you have symptoms or not. Some hernias do not need surgical repair at all. Other hernias could lead to trapping of a part of your gut through the hernia hole (ring) and cause bowel obstruction or even gangrene, which are serious conditions. We recommend that you get a medical checkup to see whether you need anything done at all.

How does one get sore eyes?

Sore eyes (conjunctivitis) is an acute inflammation of the inner lining of the

upper and lower eyelids, caused by adenoviruses, bacteria or allergy. They eyes becomes painful, burning, reddened and sticky with secretions. Conjunctival irritation with dust, smoke, wind and other air pollutants may be associated, or accompanying the presence of a common cold or measles. Avoidance of close contact with someone with sore eyes or touching any items touched by the patient, and maintaining good hygiene (washing hands often after contact) are most essential to minimize the chances of getting infected.

How did I catch amebic dysentery?

Amebiasis is disease caused by a protozoa, Entamoeba histolytica. It is usually asymptomatic but diarrhea, mild to severe, may occur. This disease is caused by poor hygiene where the food or water consumed is contaminated by human feces, either by unsanitary handling or direct contamination. Proper hand washing is most important. Since it tends to recur, stools should be re-examined one month, three months and six months after a full course of treatment. Serious complications of amebiasis could affect the liver, the brain, the lungs and other organs. If in doubt, consult your physician.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States. Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com

Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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