Your Questions, Our Answers
Q: I noticed my wedding ring doesn't fit anymore even though I weigh about the same as always. I'm also tired all the time and sweat a lot. Could something be wrong?
A: All of these symptoms — change in ring size, fatigue, heavy sweating — can be signs of a pituitary tumor that is making too much growth hormone (acromegaly). This type of tumor can be tricky to identify because there isn't one red flag, but a collection of broad symptoms. Other symptoms include severe headaches, joint pain, changes in shoe size, sleep apnea and gaps appearing between teeth. Frequently, women have irregular periods and men have sexual dysfunction. The symptoms often develop slowly over years, which can lead to a delay in diagnosis. If you have several suggestive symptoms, discuss testing your hormone levels, specifically growth hormone and prolactin, with your primary care doctor. If results are abnormal, you should see a pituitary specialist for more testing. Pituitary tumors are usually not caused by cancer. Most people improve immediately after proper treatment that includes surgery and medication.
Q: My doctor says I have mitral valve regurgitation. What is that?
A: The mitral valve is a "door" in your heart that allows blood flow between chambers. If the mitral valve isn't closing tightly, there can be leaking, or regurgitation. Often, people don't know they have this problem until it worsens over time, causing shortness of breath, fatigue, fluid retention and sensations of heart flutters, or palpitations. In some cases, mitral valve regurgitation can be mild, not requiring any treatment other than monitoring. For others, the condition can become severe and require surgery to prevent serious complications such as heart failure. OHSU is currently pioneering a minimally invasive option for repairing or replacing the mitral valve from the groin or a small incision on the chest. This exciting breakthrough in treatment means faster recovery for patients. OHSU has the most treatment options to treat mitral regurgitation in the region. Treatment decisions are based on the individual's anatomy and condition.
Q: On my last birthday, I got a postcard reminding me about a health screening that is due. Since I'm healthy, could I skip it?
A: The purpose of screenings is to try to detect health conditions in people who have no symptoms yet. Through early detection and treatment, we are more likely to cure or contain diseases before they progress with long-term or even fatal results. Talk to your primary care provider about what screenings are indicated for your age, general health, and personal and family history. You can also discuss the options and benefits of the types of screenings available. We know that with colon, breast and cervical cancer, screening makes a difference and can prevent death and complications from the disease. You should regularly be screened for risk factors of coronary heart disease, including cholesterol, blood pressure, tobacco use and diabetes. Your PCP can advise when you should do these tests.
Q: Do cancer survivors need a different diet from other people?
A: No, as long as they are feeling well. Cancer survivors often believe they have to follow highly restricted diets, but that isn't true based on current evidence. The guideline is to follow a plant-based diet with lean proteins and whole grains, emphasizing fruits and vegetables. This is the same for everyone, but cancer survivors tend to be motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes. Also, taking various supplements isn't recommended for preventing cancer. Food works synergistically; you can't get the same benefits from a pill. Instead, explore creative recipes. Variety is key. Vibrantly colored (reds, blues, purples) produce has more phytochemical or antioxidant compounds. Abstaining or reducing alcohol to recommended daily limits is important, and avoid excess sugar, salt and saturated fats. Meet with a nutrition professional after your diagnosis or after completing treatment to help make a custom plan for your specific needs.
Q: My child is constipated. What can I do?
A: Constipation is common, especially in children. It can be caused by changes in routine, such as toilet training, stress, travel, illness or the start of school. If your child is often constipated, make sure to provide lots of fruits, vegetables and fiber. Have your child drink enough liquids daily so that urine is clear or light yellow. Encourage exercise or activity for your child of at least 30 minutes or more daily. Plan daily toilet-sitting time after meals and school for at least 5–10 minutes to establish good bowel habits and keep stool moving.