DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I know a number of lung cancer patients, including my father, who were diagnosed with cancer long after they stopped smoking. My father died at 84. He stopped smoking at 44. We are led to believe that the likelihood of lung cancer diminishes after one stops smoking. My observations seem not to support the theory that stopping cigarettes prevents lung cancer. – G.R.

ANSWER:
Scientists have proven beyond any doubt that quitting smoking adds years to a person’s life. The younger a person is when he or she stops, the greater the gain he or she attains.

For heart disease, after one year of abstinence, a former smoker has a 50 percent reduction in the risk of dying from heart disease. After 15 years, the risk is the same as that for people who never smoked.

For lung cancer, 10 years of not smoking reduces the cancer risk by 50 percent. After 30 years, the risk is the same as a never-smoker. Some, however, believe that the cancer risk never entirely leaves.

Your dad lived to be 84. If he had smoked for those 40 years, his chances of living to that age would have been quite small.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: When I was 28, I had a brain aneurysm clipped. I am now 58 and have had no trouble. Back then, the doctor put me on Dilantin, and I have been on it since. Can I stop it? – P.R.

ANSWER:
Dilantin is an anti-seizure medicine. Seizures happen with aneurysms and can happen following brain surgery.

Who is writing this prescription for you? Is it your family doctor or a neurologist? Talk to the doctor and see if a trial of going without the medicine is safe for you.

A neurologist might want to take an EEG before discontinuing the medicine, but that’s not a bothersome test.


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