DEAR DR. DONOHUE: The receptionist at my doctor’s office called to give me the report on a mammogram I had taken. She said that it showed calcifications and that the doctor wanted it repeated in six months. Why? Are calcifications indications of cancer? If they are, I’d like to get this taken care of immediately. I am becoming a nervous wreck thinking about this. — H.M.
ANSWER: When tests don’t provide a definite answer, everyone suffers — the patient, the doctor of the patient and the doctor who interpreted the test.
Calcifications are the perfect example. They’re calcium specks. When the doctor interpreting the mammogram sees them, he or she bases their importance on their number, their shape, their size and the pattern they make. With those criteria, the doctor usually can say whether they indicate cancer.
Noncancerous calcifications might result from a bump to the breast to which you paid little attention. Or a minor breast infection could have caused them.
If the doctor feels that evidence points more in the direction of cancer, then he or she will ask for an immediate biopsy. If the doctor feels more certain that they are not cancer signs but is not completely certain about that call, a repeat examination at a later date is a reasonable position to take. Neither the interpreting doctor nor your personal doctor would ask for a delay if there was any chance that the inaction would harm your health.
The pamphlet on breast cancer gives the approach to diagnosing and treating it. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 1101W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My thighs are loaded with cellulite. What is it, and how can I get rid of it? — M.T.
ANSWER: Cellulite is beneath-the-skin fat that forms small puckers due to crisscrossing fibers similar to but not the same as scar-tissue fibers. The fiber-puckered fat gives the involved skin a lumpy-bumpy appearance.
Laser treatments, radiofrequency wave treatments and ultrasound have been used for removing cellulite. These are cosmetic procedures and likely are not covered by insurance. Innumerable creams are advertised for cellulite reduction, but I can’t tell you if they work. I would be cautious about trying any that are costly. Weight loss makes cellulite less obvious. You are best served by consulting a dermatologist.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: For the past several days, my left eyelid has been twitching. There’s no pain. It does not affect my vision. Does it mean anything? — T.P.
ANSWER: Not usually. Eyelid twitches result from spasms of muscles controlling eyelid movement. It’s intermittent and lasts for a few days, at most. Fatigue, stress and caffeine have been implicated as causes. I have had such twitching, at times when I was neither tired nor stressed nor drinking caffeine.
If the twitching is bothersome, soak a washcloth in warm water and apply it to the closed eyelid. If twitching lasts longer than a week or two, see the family doctor.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
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