Your Questions, Our Answers
Q: My child seems nervous about the new school year. What can I do to help?
A: It’s normal for all children to have some anxiety around transition times, like starting a new school year. You can help your child physically and emotionally. Elementary-age children need 10–11 hours of sleep a night. Adolescents 12–19 still need 8–9 hours of sleep. Plan nutritious meal options. Set aside time to talk with your child about feelings related to school. Younger children are often anxious about unfamiliar places or people, and separating from you. Older children may be worried about social dynamics and academics. Roleplaying and talking through best- and worst-case plans can be helpful. Your calm, positive attitude will also be a boost. Keep as consistent a routine as possible for mornings and evenings to reduce stress and keep bedtimes on track. If your child has frequent stomachaches/headaches or severe disruptive anxiety, make an appointment to see your child’s health care team to further investigate.
Q. What are the warning signs or symptoms of a brain tumor?
A. The most common symptom is headache, the kind that gradually worsens and doesn’t respond to over-the-counter pain relievers. Patients often describe this type of headache as an all-over throbbing that is constant and intense. Pain may worsen when lying down. Other symptoms can be related to what part of the brain is being pressed by the tumor. Though similar to stroke symptoms, such as speech and balance issues, brain tumor symptoms tend to develop gradually rather than suddenly. However, if an adult experiences a first-time seizure, it can often signal a brain tumor. Catching a brain tumor early is better, because the options are usually easier, safer and have better results. If something seems off, seek care sooner rather than later. Brain tumors are relatively rare and need specialty care in a center that has a team of very experienced doctors.
S. Jude Han, M.D., OHSU Brain Institute
Q: I live a healthy lifestyle, but there’s heart disease in my family. Does that mean I’m at risk?
A: Just like no two people share the same fingerprint, no two have the same risk of cardiovascular disease. Research at OHSU shows that much of this risk is established well before you are born, through genetics, the health of your mother and even the way you developed in the womb. Lifestyle is important, but we recommend taking our Healthy Heart Family Tree survey to find out how your family history affects your heart health. This unique tool captures lifestyle, personal health history and your family's health history, and provides an assessment based on the latest research on how birth weight, pregnancy complications, and acquired conditions like hypertension and diabetes, can signal a risk for future heart problems. Get your personal assessment at www.ohsuheart.com/familytree.
Q: I’ve heard pancreatic cancer is one deadliest kinds. Is there anything I can do to avoid it?
A: Maintaining a healthy weight, exercise and avoiding smoking all reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer. Obesity and smoking are especially hard on the pancreas, a gland that is important for regulating blood sugar and digestion. Research shows you can reduce your risk by up to 50 percent by avoiding these stressors. However, some people have an inherited risk, including strong family history or a gene defect. One reason pancreatic cancer has a high mortality rate is that often there aren’t symptoms until the disease has progressed. If you believe you have a higher risk or have been diagnosed, seek out a center that specializes in pancreatic cancer.