The other morning, I had coffee with a senior neurosurgeon who is a veteran at several major medical centers. He underscored for me why it is critical for all of us as patients to get second opinions. The main reason is the business pressures that doctors are sometimes under, and how that might color their recommendations on what treatment to proceed with and when. Imagine a scenario where brain surgery might be a considered for a movement disorder or Parkinson’s, for example, and you are encouraged to proceed to surgery by a doctor who is under business pressure to perform...

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My 12-year-old daughter, Ruthie, has a chronic stomach inflammation problem. So far, it has not blossomed into Crohn’s disease and maybe never will. And it’s not celiac disease, where you can calm the inflammation by eliminating gluten (wheat and other grains) from your diet. And it doesn’t appear to be any identifiable food allergy. For three years, she’s had stomach pain and anemia that has required treatment with periodic iron infusions. Steroids have not made a difference. And, at 12, we worry Ruthie could have permanent scarring if we don’t get her on an effective treatment for what is called...

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This is the time of year when many people travel to see family and friends. Some people might be coming to visit you. Either way, when you (or someone in your family) are not near your usual doctors and pharmacy and become ill, it can be unsettling. The other day, I had the opportunity to interview Susan Holt from Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. For 20 years, she’s been a physician assistant and has specialized in “travel medicine.” Here are some points she made that hit home with me: Be sure to take your prescription medicines with you, and...

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There’s good news coming out of the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, where 15,000 breast cancer doctors and scientists have been meeting to discuss the latest research. Over the past three years or so, we’ve known that new medicines called aromatase inhibitors can help breast cancer survivors lower their risk of a recurrence. This is for the post-menopausal women who have the most common type of breast cancer that is fueled by the hormone estrogen. For the past few decades, such women have taken Tamoxifen after surgery and also, perhaps, chemo and radiation. It has worked very well but...

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Esther and I and two of our three kids had dinner at a friend’s house the other night. Pizza. It was great to catch up with David, a very intelligent man who recent left a career as a manager at Boeing to strike out on his own as a consultant. It’s been tough - and not just getting new business. According to David, the real challenge is having the focus to be the kind of "perpetual motion machine" you have to be when starting your own company. Believe me, I know! At Boeing, David had many staffers to support him,...

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We began producing broadcasts for people living with multiple sclerosis more than 10 years ago. That was when Betaseron, the first biologic disease-modifying drug, was first coming to market. We had an instant audience. At that time, my only friend with MS was Terri S. She was in a couples group that my wife and I belong to. Terri was doing well and not yet on a regular medicine. Happily, Terri continues to do well on Avonex, which she has taken for several years. Once, on my way to work, a man on the street asked me for directions. It...

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My wife, Esther, and I are pretty high tech. We both are on our computers a lot and use instant messaging all the time, almost as much as our teenager and pre-teen. Last week, we were both working at different tables at Starbucks near our home. I was tucked away in a corner for hours. Coming up for air, I IM’d Esther. I even sent her one of those smiley faces you can embed. "Where are you?" she shot back. "About 10 feet away," I responded. We both laughed. Today when Esther messaged me, I was across town. No smiley...

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There’s a dermatologist around the corner from my house. He’s a really nice man, and he has a thriving practice. Lots of Botox shots and laser procedures. Some kids with acne too. But mostly cosmetic dermatology. Now consider that psoriasis is an autoimmune condition where skin plaques are merely one of the more evident symptoms and that many dermatologists rarely delve that far below the surface. With this in mind, it’s pretty evident that you owe it to yourself to consult with a psoriasis specialist - someone who is well-versed in the latest treatment options that attack the problem where...

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I have now hosted three radio programs on sleep problems, and the calls just keep pouring in. Do I need a new mattress? Should I watch TV before bed? Does melatonin work? My old CPAP machine is lousy - are there new and better ones? My teenager never sleeps during the week and sleeps all weekend, is that healthy? My husband snores. Is it also harming his heart? Does [fill-in-the-blank medication] guarantee a good night’s sleep? Whew! I am getting the impression we are all having problems sometimes. It happened to me as I tossed and turned the other night....

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You may have heard that a 15-year-old girl with an allergy to peanuts died after kissing her boyfriend who had just eaten a peanut butter snack. An almost immediate shot of adrenaline didn't save her. How tragic! According to this recent article: The great allergy scare in schools Roughly 60 million people in the United States suffer from allergies, including food-related ones. Each year, 700 people die each year from an allergic reaction, 200 of which are food-related. Food allergies are most prevalent in young children and frequently outgrown, except for peanut and shellfish allergies. Only an estimated 20 percent...

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