DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 42 and the mother of two children. My husband and I would like more children. My gynecologist doctor tells me I have a fibroid tumor. Does that mean cancer? Will it stop me from having more children? Does my uterus have to be removed? – C.P.

ANSWER: Fibroids are growths of the muscular uterine wall. They aren’t cancer. If they aren’t causing trouble, a woman can choose to ignore them.

Trouble includes such things as heavy menstrual bleeding, infertility, pelvic pain, painful intercourse and pressure on adjacent organs, such as the bladder, making frequent urination necessary. Unless the doctor suggested that the fibroid be removed, I’d take the remark only as a statement that a fibroid is there, not that you need surgery.

No one knows for sure what causes fibroids, but female hormones must be involved, as fibroids shrink after menopause, when hormone production wanes.

When a fibroid must be removed, there are many alternatives to surgery. They can be extracted with a scope and instruments inserted into the uterus through the vagina. Or doctors can use a laparoscope, a viewing instrument inserted into the pelvic cavity through a small incision in the abdominal skin, to guide them in snaring and taking out fibroids.

A new treatment is magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound. Magnetic resonance imaging permits doctors to see the fibroid with magnetic waves. When they’ve located the fibroid, they then turn on a special device that emits ultrasound waves. Those waves heat and destroy the fibroid. This 21st-century technique is not available in all places, but it probably will be in a short time.

Uterine artery embolization is another technique that gets rid of fibroids without surgery. A catheter is advanced to the artery that supplies the fibroid, and when there, small beads are released that block blood flow to fibroid, which eventually withers and dies.

The fibroid booklet discusses this condition in great detail. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 1106, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I see that a new sleeping pill makes some people eat during the night without knowing they’re doing it. Well, I don’t take sleeping pills, but this has happened to me several times in the past year. I see the evidence in the morning. What’s going on? – W.W.

ANSWER: You’re probably sleepwalking. Sleepwalkers do a number of strange things while they sleepwalk, and they rarely remember them the next day. Snacking is one of those things. The greatest concern for sleepwalkers is their self-protection. It’s best for them to sleep on the ground floor. If they have a sleep partner, then they should push one side of the bed against the wall and they should sleep on that side. Their partner’s sleeping body will then be an obstacle that prevents them from getting out of bed.

You ought to let your doctor know about this. Even though most sleepwalkers are healthy, a few conditions predispose to it. If the sleepwalking episodes are frequent, the doctor can prescribe medicines that help you stay in bed throughout the night.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Quite often, before falling asleep, my body has what I call a shudder. Why?

I have spoken to others about this, and several have had the same thing happen to them. – B.W.

ANSWER: That body shudder has a name – hypnic jerk.

Just before nodding off, the brain can temporarily lose its control over muscles, and they briefly shake. Caffeine and mental stress increase the number of hypnic jerks.

It’s not a sign of illness. Just about everyone has had this experience.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My son plays video games for hours at a time. Could he be getting too much radiation from the screen? – R.T.

ANSWER: Early on in the computer age, some people believed that radiation from the screen could cause miscarriages and cataracts. It doesn’t do either. The radiation is minuscule. Your son is not in any danger.

He is in danger of being inactive. Sitting hour after hour playing video games is not the best way to spend time, nor the best way to promote health. He could be studying, or he could be exercising.

Leave it to someone – me – to be a nudge.

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

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