DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 69-year-old woman in fairly good health. I stopped smoking 19 years ago. My brother and two of my sisters have died from lung cancer. My sisters smoked until the diagnosis, but my brother hadn’t smoked in 40 years. I have had two MRI scans for back problems and two spiral CT scans looking for lung cancer. My doctor was not in favor of the two CT scans. I asked about having a third scan, and she said the radiation exposure is not worth the results. I would like your opinion. – J.F.

The lung cancer story is not a happy one. Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. More people die from it than die from breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. Smoking is the greatest risk for developing it. Upon stopping smoking, the risk recedes and can approach a 90 percent reduction in 15 years.

Family history has a bearing on lung cancer. If a brother, sister, son, daughter, mother or father (first-degree relatives) had lung cancer, especially at an early age, that amounts to a significant danger for that person’s probability of coming down with it too.

The problem with lung cancer is discovering it at a stage when it’s treatable. Spiral CT scans pick up lung cancer much earlier than a regular CT scan or a chest X-ray. Low-dose spiral CT scans expose people to less radiation, but they still constitute an exposure threat. Another downside to the spiral CT scan is the fact that they pick up suspicious lung abnormalities that require further and sometimes invasive tests. Often, those abnormalities prove to be innocent ones.

With your family history, your anxiety is justified. Tell your doctor how you feel. Tell her you’re willing to accept the level of radiation from scans – if you truly are. You might want to discuss this with a radiologist too.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am writing for advice on Peyronie’s disease. My doctor knows of no cure for it. A search of the Internet shows a wide variety of products, foremost being a pill called Neprinal. – B.R.

n Peyronie’s (pay-row-KNEES) disease, scar tissue forms in the penis and causes it to bend. When the bend is pronounced, it can be painful and can prevent sexual relations. The reason why scar tissue forms is disputed. About all that can be said is that it does, and it does so in quite a few men.

Numerous medicines have been tried for this condition, including Potaba. None has been a universal success. Doctors have injected verapamil into the scar tissue, and this procedure has had some success.

For some, the process stabilizes and then regresses to the point that it is no longer painful and no longer an obstacle to sexual relations. That can take some time to occur.

In instances when the process is severe, surgeons can remove the scar tissue, and surgery has a satisfactory track record. Have you talked with a urologist about this?

I can’t find any evidence supporting the use of Neprinal (also spelled Neprinol).

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a story that will challenge you. I am a fit, 60-year-old female, on no medication. Two and a half years ago, I began to have problems taking a breath. I just could not get a full breath. I also had terrible GERD symptoms. The symptoms were so disconcerting that I rapidly lost 40 pounds.

I went on an expensive chase through the medical establishment: heart test, fine; lung X-rays, fine; endoscopy and colonoscopy, clear. After two and a half years of suffering, I was sitting in the car eating a hamburger. My husband asked me to reach behind me to get something off the back seat. As I did, I felt a twinge beneath my left breast. It felt like a pulling, with some pain that did not last more than one minute. When I turned around, I could breathe right for the first time in more than two years, and I have not had GERD symptoms since. What was this? Do I need to see a doctor? Is this the miracle at McDonald’s? – M.S.

ou’re right. I am challenged. I don’t know how or why that twisting motion cured you. I open this up to readers, both doctors and nondoctors, to speculate. I’ll pass the information back to you.

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

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.