DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am concerned about my 12-year-old granddaughter. A couple of months ago, she started to have a reddish-brown discharge coming from one of her nipples. Naturally, we were all concerned. My daughter took her to the pediatrician, who subsequently sent her to a surgeon. She had an ultrasound, which showed a small cyst in her breast. The doctor says this isn’t an unusual problem for a girl her age who has just started menstruating. He said no treatment is needed. I have tried to persuade my daughter to get another opinion, but she refuses. Am I just being a worrywart grandmother? – N.M.

ANSWER:
Every woman with a nipple discharge becomes a justified worrywart. The fear of cancer strikes all. Nipple discharge, however, is not a usual sign of cancer, unless there is both a discharge and a breast lump. All the same, every nipple discharge warrants a thorough examination for cancer.

To ease your mind, the truth is that breast cancer is most unusual in a female younger than 35 (some say 25). That fact ought to allay your anxieties.

In young girls with a brownish discharge, the cause is often due to prominent glands in the areola – the red ring that surrounds the nipple. This kind of discharge disappears and has no association with cancer.

Your granddaughter has been examined by two competent physicians. They have reassured the girl and her mother that all she has is a cyst. The ultrasound reinforces that diagnosis. I sincerely believe you can trust their assessment. No good doctor fools around with a suspicion of cancer if there is such a suspicion. Further testing is always done.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Recently, I heard that drinking or eating out of cans will cause aluminum poisoning. I also heard that food cooked in a microwave oven still retains some aluminum and that we, in turn, ingest it.

Is either of these claims true? – Anon.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My sister called to tell me that canned food can become tainted with aluminum and that I should not use it. I have many cans of food and am reluctant to throw them out. Should I? – A.S.

ANSWER:
Where did this information come from? Was it the Internet? The Internet is a wonderful source of information, but not all of the information on it is true. You have to be discriminating about what you read there.

There is no basis in fact that canned foods or eating or drinking out of cans causes aluminum poisoning. Don’t throw your canned food away.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 22-year-old male who had a cardiac arrest at age 17. It was caused by an overdose of a psych medicine. For about eight months prior to the overdose, I was a heavy drinker and took many downers. I probably drank an average of a fifth of alcohol a day for three of those months.

Right now, about once every two weeks, I experience chest pain. It feels like a stabbing pain and lasts only about 15 seconds. Is this normal for someone my age? What kind of risk could it represent? Could it be due to the heart? What precautions can I take to prevent it? – O.G.

ANSWER:
A 15-second pain that occurs every two weeks doesn’t indicate any serious trouble for a 22-year-old or, for that matter, for an any-year-old, even one who has had a cardiac arrest five years ago.

I can’t tell you what the cause is. I can tell you such short-lived, intermittent pain isn’t something you have to worry about. Stop worrying.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: A friend told me of a person who starts her day with 8 ounces of water and 2 teaspoons of honey and apple cider. It alleviates her allergies. She also eats honey by the spoonful for a stuffy feeling in her head. Does this work? – D.R.

ANSWER:
None of this is going to hurt her, but none of it helps her either. If she believes it does, let her. The power of belief is often greater than the power of medicines.

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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