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Wed, 7th June 2017
 

The breast is both women's greatest asset, as well as its greatest challenge. In the heady days of youth and advancing years, a shapely shape is everything. Millions are spent annually by those who want to change what nature gave them for free.

The darker side is also a continual storm brewing on the horizon. As breast cancer figures show little sign of improving, many women have a horrible predicament in store. Lifetime risk of breast cancer is now about one in seven, probably higher. It used to be one in 13. Worse still, it is now attacking more and more younger women in their early to mid-forties. This kind is the most aggressive of all, and is often a nine to twelve month life sentence.

There is absolutely no doubt there is a genetic factor involved With discovery of the BrCa-1 and -2 gene, if present is now a guarantee for disaster at some stage, probably earlier rather than later.

Despite the tens of millions spent on trying to find and stop the cause, treatment is still hit and miss. Early cases respond well, in many cases, to simple "lumpectomy". In other cases, breast removal plus removal of nearby lymph glands (in the armpit) followed by radio therapy and chemotherapy and supportive medication will often help.

There are many women who lived for an extra 20-25 years after this type of intervention, and died from an unrelated cause.

The advent of Herceptin has seen a giant leap forward. More so since it went on the PBS. This moved the private cost of $60,000 pa to $30 per hit. It has saved many lives. Regular self-examination is still helpful, but currently our first line favour. Mammograms for all over 50 (and 40 in some states), plus ultrasound in younger women with firmer breast tissue is the peak method of detection.

However, doctors continue to seek causes in the environment, or chemicals in food we eat. Who knows what additives may be responsible, or environmental pollution, increasing oestrogen exposure in women.

Please support breast research. Also, take care of yourself by regular examinations, taking advantage of all avenues now readily available to all Australian women, and mostly government funded.

 
FEAR OF THE DARK

Q: 

I am mid-teens and still terrified of the dark. How can I overcome this?

A: 

Heaps of teenagers and adults are terrified of "something". I hated darkness as a child. Many are fearful of enclosed spaces, certain animals, spiders, snakes or mice. Others at tunnels, lifts, flying. If one closes the eyes, and focuses on alternative thoughts, the fear often vanishes. Others respond well to cognitive behavioural therapy (psychologists) and hypnotherapy, probably the best. Talk to your GP. Medication is usually useless.

 
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SMALL ITCHY SPOT

Q: 

I have a reddish itchy spot the size of 10c on my forearm. I've tried the usual applications for infection, ringworm, tinea, but it persists.

A: 

Often a mild steroid cream containing a fungus killer works. If this fails, maybe a punch biopsy will give the answer. Here a small circle of skin is examined under the microscope and its cause readily discovered. Majority are fixable once the cause is found.

 
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PENILE ENLARGEMENT

Q: 

Is surgery currently available for guys with a small penis?

A: 

Yes, and an ugly sight it is. The sensation producing nerve endings are located in the glans, or head, and will work well irrespective of the diameter of the shaft. Many women have a dilated canal especially following childbirth, which means close sexual contact and the enjoyment this produces is reduced. Surgical repair (after child bearing is over) can often rectify the issue.

 
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ROSACEA

Q: 

I have pimples much the same as when a teenager. Is this fixable?

A: 

This sounds like rosacea, or adult acne. Intervention is similar. Wash face daily with a non alkaline soap and warm water. Dab dry with a soft towel. Then apply Rosez or similar ointment to pimples. Taking an antibiotic (usually tetracycline or doxycycline) daily for 6-9 months is also helpful. Swimming in the surf, a bit of sunshine, a zinc tablet daily also may help.

 
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PALE COMPLEXION

Q: 

My sister in mid-life is very pale, and this worries me but she ignores it.

A: 

She may be anemic. Breathlessness with exertion, pallor and getting tired are common symptoms often accepted as part of life. A blood check will quickly give the answer - low hemoglobin. This often follows heavy periods, or if they occur too close together. Iron tablets (best with vitamin c) will often rectify the issue - again double checked by a blood check.

 
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This health advice is general in nature. You are advised to seek medical attention from your doctor or health care provider for your own specific symptoms and circumstances.

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