DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I’m in my 60s and never had a major illness. I take no medicines. During the past three months, I have been wakened from sleep with a dull pain in the center of my chest. My husband told me to take Mylanta. I did, and got instant relief. What do you think of this pain? — V.P.
ANSWER: Pain that wakens a person from sleep must be taken seriously and ought to be reported to the family doctor.
However, the response you got from taking Mylanta (an antacid) makes me think of GERD — gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly known as heartburn. Stomach acid and digestive juices spurt into the esophagus, a structure not equipped to deal with them like the stomach can. If this nighttime pain of yours keeps coming back, put 6-inch blocks under the bedposts at the head of your bed to keep stomach juices in the stomach when you lie down.
My first statement about nighttime pain has to be observed. You need to see the family doctor to be certain this is heartburn and not one of the many other serious possibilities.
The booklet on coronary artery disease, another cause of chest pain, details its signs and symptoms. To obtain a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 101, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853- 6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 with the recipient’s printed name and address.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I had two cousins, sisters who died of pancreatic cancer less than a year apart. One was two years older than the other. They grew up and lived in the same Midwestern town. I am concerned about their other sister. Could the disease run in the family? Their mother died of cancer at the age of 40, but we don’t know what type of cancer. — Anon.
ANSWER: Two sisters dying of pancreatic cancer makes you sit up and take notice. If a brother, sister or parent had pancreatic cancer, the risk of another family member coming down with it increases by 18 times the risk for a person without such a family history.
Pancreatic cancer most often appears between the ages of 65 and 84. Aging, smoking and chronic inflammation of the gland are other factors involved in its genesis.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a very active 45-year-old female dance teacher with a surprising white blood count of 2,500. My weight and diet are excellent. I stay away from sugar. I do not feel sick. What can I take to raise my white blood count? — S.
ANSWER: You’re the second person in the past three weeks who is concerned about a low white blood count. The normal count is 4,500 to 10,000. The chief role of white blood cells is to battle attacking viruses and bacteria.
You have no symptoms from your lower- thannormal count. Your body defenses are in fine shape. Your count might be normal for you. It bears watching. Nothing you take can raise the count. In your case, it doesn’t need to be raised.
Readers may write Dr. Donohue or request an order form of available health newsletters at P. O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853- 6475.
©2013 North America Synd.