HealthSmart Q & A-1

Dear HealthSmart,

I love my job as CEO of a small company and want to work forever. But at 69, I’ve started noticing my voice is giving out on me—making it hard to rally my troops. Could voice therapy help?

HealthSmart asked Dr. Clark Rosen, M.D., Professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the university’s Voice Center. Here’s his response:

These days we’re seeing a tremendous number of older baby boomers wanting stronger voices. But not all are good candidates for voice therapy. You have to be motivated, hear yourself well and have vocal cords that haven’t deteriorated too much. Voice therapy doesn’t build muscle. Rather, it improves speaking technique, voice production, air flow, articulation and timing–all factors that help overcome the physical limits of vocal cords. About 90 percent of the patients we refer for voice therapy are successful. They have a louder, better quality voice and speak with less effort. Those who don’t improve have the option of surgery that works for a limited number of people.


Dear HealthSmart,

As a guy of 39, I’m feeling great and get to the gym every day. But I have a huge family history of pancreatic cancer. Three of my siblings died from this awful illness in their 40s or 50s. Should I get tested?

HealthSmart asked Diane Simeone, M.D., a surgeon and pancreatic cancer researcher at the University of Michigan Health System. Here’s her response:  


You’re not alone in your fears. Sadly, pancreatic cancer is increasing in the U.S.—now making it the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths. But there are rarely any obvious symptoms until it’s too late. Because you’re a male with a family history, you are definitely at greater risk. Early detection, though very difficult, is crucial to long-term survival. Therefore, it could be wise for you to receive a routine screening on an annual basis—either with a specialized MRI test or a specialized type of ultrasound. To get the highest quality screening, we recommend you go to a comprehensive cancer center affiliated with a university.


Dear HealthSmart,

My house is next to a huge commercial farm that use lots of pesticides. The stuff blows over in my direction. I’ve heard some pesticides are linked to Parkinson’s Disease. Is that true or am I just nervous over nothing?

HealthSmart asked Dr. Jeffrey Bronstein, M.D./Ph.D, a leading Parkinson’s researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine. Here’s his response:

Yes, you have reason for worry. Our research shows that several pesticides commonly used in agriculture are strongly associated with an increased risk for Parkinson’s Disease. One especially toxic one is Ziran, a fungicide widely used since the 1960s by farms growing such fruits as apples, peaches, pears, apricots, cherries and tomatoes. Our research shows that people—such as farmworkers—who are heavily exposed to this chemical can have up to a 300 percent greater risk of developing Parkinson’s. People exposed to commonly used lawn chemicals are also at increased risk, as are those exposed to such cleaning solvents as Trichloroethylene. Still, it can take decades for a heavy exposure to manifest in the disease. Within reason, it’s wise to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals, as well as pesticides in food. In my family, we try to buy organic food—especially organic milk because pesticides can accumulate in dairy products.


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


Back to Top