HealthSmart Q & A-18

Dear HealthSmart,

What are signs to pay attention to for colorectal cancer? What should prompt a visit to the doctor?

HealthSmart asked Dr. Mohamed Salem, M.D., Professor of Gastrointestinal Oncology at Georgetown University. Here’s his response:

It’s estimated that around 85% of patients with colon cancer have some kind of symptoms including rectal bleeding, unexplained weight loss, change in bowel habits, abdominal pain that doesn’t go away. It’s extremely important to pay attention to these symptoms and not dismiss them because you attribute them to something else. Many patients will think their rectal bleeding is caused by hemorrhoids when in fact it’s a symptom of their colorectal cancer. Any time you notice one or more of these symptoms, you should monitor them and pay a visit to your primary care doctor who will determine next steps.


Dear HealthSmart,

What risks do HPV infections pose? Are all types of HPV equally problematic?

HealthSmart asked Dr. Joel Palefsky, M.D./Ph.D., Chair of the HPV Working Group of the AMC and Professor of Medicine at University of California San Francisco. Here’s his response:

For women, HPV infections can pose rise for developing vulvar, anal, vaginal, and oral cancers. For men, developing anal, oral, and more rarely, penile and scrotal cancer are risks associated with HPV infections. Genital warts caused by HPV infections are a risk for both men and women. The presence of genital warts more commonly is linked to social and psychological effects, but can also pose serious risk for women with present genital warts during childbirth. The baby may swallow materials from the genital wart, causing them to develop warts in their larynx which can cause a very dangerous obstruction.


Dear HealthSmart,

I live in a hot, sticky area where the weather seems to get muggier each year. Because I just hit 60, I’m trying to keep up with my exercise and so I walk a lot in my neighborhood. Should I worry about dehydration and its consequences?

HealthSmart asked Dr. George Kuchel, MD, Director at the University of Connecticut Center for Aging. Here’s his response:

It’s wonderful you’re so exercise conscious. But you’re right to worry about dehydration as you age. The older you get, the harder it is maintain homeostasis–the body’s ability to keep a constant internal environment so all critical bodily mechanisms can function properly. Signs of dehydration include dryness of the mouth and tongue. Also, you may only urinate small quantities of dark, yellow urine. In addition, you could experience cramping in your limbs, headaches and a general feeling of being unwell. Older people are often less aware of thirst and don’t realize they’re dehydrated until it’s too late. No matter your age and the weather, it’s important to drink plenty of water and to exercise. But when the temperature and humidity soar, it’s far better to exercise indoors in a relatively dry and air-conditioned environment. If you are committed to exercising outside, be sure to drink extra fluids before and after your workout and pay attention to signs of dehydration.


Do you have questions on health or wellness you’d like answered by the nation’s leading medical researchers? If so, you can send to HealthSmart is a national newspaper column from the Washington News Service in DC. Due to demand, we are unable to reply to all inquiries. Responses through the column are no substitute for care from physicians or other medical professionals.

Copyright Ellen James Martin 2021


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