Hodgkin’s disease often can be cured

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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My best friend was just diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. We are both 23. Her mother told me that it was caught early. What is the outlook for her? I have my fingers crossed. She is more like a sister than a friend. What’s the treatment? – R.G.

ANSWER: Hodgkin’s disease is cancer of the lymph nodes, the filtering stations that clear bacteria and foreign matter from the body. We are born with more than 500 lymph nodes.

There are two peak ages for this cancer. The first peak is in the 20s, and the second is at much older ages. More than 8,000 cases occur each year in the United States and Canada.

Swollen lymph nodes are the first sign of this cancer. The nodes can be felt in the neck, above the collarbone or under the arms. The nodes don’t hurt. They’re just big. Some people suffer from night sweats and lose weight. Many have a fever. Itching, severe and all over, is another common complaint.

The diagnosis is proved by microscopic examination of an excised lymph node.

Medicine can be proud of Hodgkin’s disease treatment. Cures are possible in 90 percent of cases. Cure depends on how widespread the illness is, the type of Hodgkin’s disease people have and how good their general health is.

If your friend’s disease is in its early stages as her mother implied, then you can be pretty sure she will be around for a long time. Treatment of the early stage involves a short course of chemotherapy and some radiation. However, the regimen is different for different kinds of Hodgkin’s disease and very different for different stages of it.

I don’t want to go overboard about this, but Hodgkin’s disease is a cancer that lends itself to successful treatment. I want you also to understand that a few people do die of it.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a friend who has had lung cancer for two years. He quit smoking 10 years before the cancer started, and he quit cold turkey. He has been told that quitting so abruptly triggered the cancer and that there should be a gradual withdrawal from smoking. It has something to do with the sudden stopping of nicotine. – A.B.

ANSWER: Do you mean that your friend has lived two years after treatment for lung cancer? That’s good news. Quitting smoking lessens the risk for getting it, but doesn’t obliterate that risk.

I have heard – more than once and always from unreliable sources – that the sudden cessation of smoking can do all sorts of terrible things to the body. I have never found a shred of evidence to support those allegations. The idea is preposterous to me.

Suddenly quitting nicotine can bring nicotine-withdrawal symptoms. Those symptoms include poor concentration, irritability, restlessness and food craving. They don’t last too long.

There are many nicotine replacement products – gum, lozenges, skin patches and nasal sprays – that provide a hit of nicotine to lessen withdrawal symptoms. They are not given to prevent lung cancer. Such replacements give a former smoker a better chance of staying off cigarettes than the chances of someone who quits without any source of nicotine.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I often cook with wine. How much alcohol remains in food after cooking it? Guests frequently ask me this question. – W.F.

ANSWER: It depends on the kind of cooking.

For foods baked or simmered in wine, after 15 minutes about 40 percent of the alcohol remains. After an hour, about a quarter of it is still there; and after two hours, only about one-tenth stays.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Where does bile go when the gallbladder has been removed? – J.B.

ANSWER: Without a gallbladder, bile drips directly from the liver into the digestive tract on a more or less constant basis. With an intact gallbladder, a jet of bile is squirted into the tract when a person eats fatty foods.

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. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com

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