DEAR DR. ROACH: A follow-up to your newspaper response about radiation in dental X-rays: I am concerned about the amount of radiation that I have had in the past three years. In 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts. Following surgery, I had 33 rounds of radiation on each breast. Last year, I had unexplained weight loss, and the investigation by my medical oncologist included two full-body CT scans. Of course, I have had many dental X-rays in my 69 years. Should I be concerned about the amount of radiation to which I have been exposed? Does it increase my chance of a recurrence of cancer? Other than cancer, I am in good health and very physically active. — K.S.

ANSWER: All radiation increases the risk of cancer; however, the small amount in a dental or other X-ray is approximately what we get in a day from natural Earth and space sources, and presents a very small risk. Radiation therapy for breast or other cancer is another story altogether. The typical dose for radiation treatment is the equivalent of many thousands of X-rays.

Radiation exposure is most likely to cause a cancer of the white blood cells, leukemia. However, that risk, even after all the radiation you had, is still quite small — a few percent. Your oncologist and radiation oncologist had to balance a small future risk against a big present benefit.

You can reduce your cancer risk with your good lifestyle, including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Some evidence suggests that aspirin may reduce cancer risk as well. Talk to your oncologist or family doctor about taking aspirin.

DEAR DR. ROACH: Several years ago, my son, who is in his early 30s, came down with red scrotum syndrome. It causes him a painful burning in the scrotum. It is so bad that it interferes with his work.

He has been to numerous doctors, and no one seems to have any clue how to treat it. Is there anything out there to treat this affliction? — B.R.

ANSWER: Red scrotum syndrome is a rare skin condition that usually affects men over 50. It often follows topical corticosteroid use (like cortisone), and symptoms may include severe itching, pain and burning.

Two treatments have been successful in most people: doxycycline (an antibiotic) and gabapentin (an anti-epilepsy drug). However, don’t think that red scrotum syndrome either is an infection or has anything to do with epilepsy; it is an inflammation of skin and nerve endings. Doxycycline may be acting as an anti-inflammatory, and gabapentin certainly acts to reduce nerve irritation, which is why it works for many people with neuropathy.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I am a 58-year-old woman. I am scheduled for a colonoscopy. I am not having any problems. My skin is very thin, and I am concerned about a perforation during the colonoscopy. Is that common? — J.S.

ANSWER: Colonoscopy is the preferred method of screening for colon cancer, and everyone between 50 and 70 should have some kind of screening. A colonoscopy is the passage of a flexible, lighted tube with a camera through the anus to look at the entire colon for any cancers or potentially cancerous polyps. Colonoscopy is very safe, but a perforation can occur. The risk is about 1 in 1,000, and perforation often requires an overnight stay in the hospital. Serious injury or death from colonoscopy is extremely rare. The wall of the colon is muscular, and I don’t believe that having thin skin puts you at any higher risk.

The booklet on colon cancer provides useful information on the causes and cures of this common malady. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Roach — No. 505, 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.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to [email protected] or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Health newsletters may be ordered from www.rbmamall.com.

(c) 2013 North America Syndicate Inc.

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