DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have two children who are now grown. When they were born, I had postpartum depression. I have suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder since then.

I have never said much about this to anyone because of embarrassment. I have not said much even to my husband. I would like to know if OCD is a lifetime disorder. Is there medicine for it? – S.

You have no reason to be embarrassed. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is not something you brought on yourself. It’s something that happens because the normal communication between brain cells has been disrupted due to an imbalance of the chemical messengers that effect information exchange between the cells. OCD is often a lifetime disorder unless the person takes action for treatment.

An obsession is a persistent and intrusive thought that a person finds disturbing. It causes anxiety and distress. The compulsion is a ritual, a repetitive behavior that a person employs to expel the oppressive thought. Constant hand-washing, checking and rechecking to see if the oven has been turned off, the endless arrangement of things in perfect order, counting the number of bricks in a wall and carefully avoiding cracks in the sidewalk are a few examples. These rituals can take hours and hours of the day and make a person quite unable to perform normal daily chores.

You’ve been suffering from this condition for far too long. Medicines and behavior therapy can put an end to this disorder that makes life so unpleasant. Ask the family doctor for a referral to a mental health specialist and make an appointment right away.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 44-year-old woman who recently discovered a ball-shaped lump in the left breast. I decided to have my first mammogram. It showed cysts in both breasts, without features of malignancy. I went to my family doctor, who sent me to a surgeon. The surgeon wanted to remove the lump. I wanted to see someone else, but I was told that this surgeon is very experienced and that I didn’t need to see any other specialists, especially an oncologist (cancer doctor). I decided to see an OB/GYN doctor, but was told that an OB/GYN doctor is not a breast specialist. I saw one anyway, and the doctor told me I did not have to hurry to surgery but to repeat the mammogram in half a year. Who is a breast specialist? – Y.V.

Obstetrician-gynecologists (specialists in female illnesses), oncologists (cancer specialists) and surgeons are all well-trained in detecting breast cancer. So are family physicians. Surgeons are usually the ones who biopsy breast lumps. Any of these doctors is qualified to advise you in the steps to take to determine the nature of a breast lump. There aren’t many doctors who limit themselves only to treatment of breast cancer. You might find such a doctor at a medical school or a large clinic in a big city. I believe you can trust any of the three doctors who examined you to guide you in the proper sequence of tests to discover the nature of your lump. Pick the one you have the most confidence in.

Breast cancer is a subject that frightens everyone. The booklet on it explains it and its treatment in detail. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 1101, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have wax buildup in my ear. The doctor told me that. He didn’t tell me what to do for it. Will you? – A.C.

Warm some baby oil or mineral oil. Put one or two drops in one ear and let it remain there for 10 minutes. This will soften the wax. Next, using a rubber-bulb syringe found in drugstores, gently flush the ear with warm water. Tilt the head to drain the water out of the ear, and the wax should come out with it. If it doesn’t, repeat the procedure.

Don’t do this procedure if you have a hole in your eardrum or an infection of the ear canal.

If this is too much of a procedure to handle, have the doctor do it.

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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