Do I Need a Mammogram?

I am 45 years old. I have been told that I need to start getting mammograms. I really don’t want to though. I do frequent self-breast examinations, and I have never found a lump. Do I really need to start getting regular mammograms? Can I wait until I turn 50?

Recently, there have been concerns that mammograms that start at age 40 are actually causing more harm than they are causing benefits. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has actuallly started recommending that mammograms be performed starting at age 50 and that they be performed once every two years and not once every year.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women start getting mammograms at age 45, and they suggest women ages 45 – 54 receive annual mammograms. Other groups suggest that mammograms can actually be harmful screenings.

I think it is definitely important to continue self-breast exams. If you find a lump, you should certainly have a mammogram, regardless of how old you are. You should also consider if you are at risk for breast cancer. Is there any family history of breast cancer? Do you have a mother, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, or sisters that have had breast cancer? If the answer is yes, you probably need to start having regular mammograms.

I think the best thing to do is to speak to your physician and see what he or she thinks. If you don’t find any lumps, and if you have no family history of breast cancer, it may be perfectly alright to start mammograms at age 50. However, it also would be perfectly alright to start mammograms now. It really is up to you and your physician.

Do I Have a Drinking Problem?

“Maybe I Drink Too Much” asks: Hey Docs. So some people in my family and my girlfriend have told me that I have a drinking problem. I don’t think they are necessarily right. I mean, I do drink all of the time but I drink with other people at work. We all go out on the weekends and drink together. It doesn’t really cause a problem in my work life or my relationships or anything. In fact, I think not drinking would cause problems at work because all of my business’s social events involve drinking and everyone in our office drinks. How much alcohol is too much? When do you have a problem?

Hello, Maybe I Drink Too Much. Thank you for your question. First of all, this is a great question, and it’s a question many of us get frequently in our practices. There is a very thin line between being a health drinker who uses alcohol in moderation and being an alcoholic. If you drink more than one to three alcoholic beverages per week, you are drinking more than you should from a health standpoint.

Alcoholism is a real disease. There is a genetic component. Consider your parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Does alcoholism run in your family? You may think you are functioning perfectly well in your life, but if your loved ones are telling you that you drink too much, there’s a chance that it’s harming your relationships without you even realizing it.

In this day and age, unfortunately, alcohol is so ingrained in our society, and it is such an integral part of many social and business events. If you were to stop drinking, it may become awkward for you at these events, but if your co-workers really like you for you and what you bring to the company, they will accept your desire to cut down on drinking or to stop drinking altogether. If they don’t, perhaps that is not a place where you should be working.

I cannot definitively say whether or not you have a drinking problem. But I think deep down, you know if drinking is a problem for you. I would talk to other people in your life about it. See a physician or counselor and talk to them about it. Try going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and just see what you think of it. If you find that you need help, there are many resources out there where you can find help. (See below.)

It’s important to remember, though, that no one knows your body and your life as well as you do. However, when it comes to alcoholism and addiction, many people will try to convince themselves that drinking and using drugs is fine. Seek the advice of physicians and people in your life who care about you.

Helpful Resources:

AION Recovery
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Should I Get a Flu Shot?

“Stuffy Nose” asks: Thank you for starting this blog! It has given me a lot of great information, and I love to read it. My question is this: I have been sick with a cold for almost two weeks. Is this normal? Do flu shots really help to prevent you from being sick? I have been considering getting one for a while. Should I get one while I am sick with a cold, though? I am worried that getting a flu shot will make me sicker. I’m not sure what to do. Can you help me, Ask Physicians?

Hello, Stuffy Nose. Thank you for all of the kind words. We are glad that you like our blog and that we can help patients to learn all of the necessary health information they need to know. We are happy to provide helpful information to all patients.

First of all, you should see a physician for any specific information about your situation. Having a cold for almost two weeks is annoying, but it is common. While flu shots can present complications for some people, this is a very small percentage of people. For the majority of people, flu shots are very helpful in preventing seasonal illnesses. See your doctor to get more specific advice.

You can prevent colds and sickness by making a few lifestyle changes. You can start by consuming more vitamins, particularly vitamin C. This will help to boost your immune system. You can also make sure you wash your hands several times a day and use hand sanitizer. If you are sick, you can contribute to a healthier environment by always covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

There is also something to be said for having a positive attitude and believing you won’t get sick. Studies have shown that people who have positive attitudes get sick less often.

How Do I Stop Shaking?

“Shaky Shaky” asks: I am having issues with trembling and shaking. I am not sleeping very well, I have a lot of anxiety, and I haven’t been eating very well either. Are there any medications that I can take for tremors? Please help!

Hello, Shaky Shaky. First of all, there are some medications that do help shaking. Most commonly, physicians will prescribe propranolol, primidone, clonazepam, alprazolam, diazepam, lorazepam, gabapentin, topiramate, and mirtazapine for shaking. However, I think there are some lifestyle changes you can make first, and if this does not resolve the shaking, I would see your doctor to get information on potential medications and see what his or her opinion is.

Getting eight to nine hours of restful sleep is going to really help. Also, you want to avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine. These things can make you feel extremely jittery. Getting the proper amount of sleep and avoiding stimulants will help you to be less shaky.

Secondly, you really need to find a way to treat the anxiety. You should try meditation and relaxation exercises. There are also medications that are used to treat anxiety. You may want to speak to your psychiatrist about them.

Another thing you can do to stop from shaking is to make sure you are eating a healthy and well-balanced diet. Make sure you are getting enough fruits, vegetables, and proteins. These are great ways to make sure that you will no longer have issues with shaking.

You should always visit your doctor though and discuss your medical issues with him or her. You might have a unique situation that we would have no way of knowing from your website question. While our advice is general and good advice for everyone, it may not be taking into account your specific circumstances.

What Should I Do About Excessive Fatigue?

“Worried in Colorado” asks: I have been sleeping for 15 hours a day lately. My husband tries to wake me up, and I barely want to get out of bed. I know I shouldn’t be sleeping so much, but I just don’t seem to have the energy to do anything. What should I do?

Well, “Worried in Colorado”, first of all, you should definitely go see a physician. There are a lot of things that could be going on here, and your physician will have a much better idea about all of your symptoms, your medical history, your family history, etc.

That being said, for other visitors to our website, if you are sleeping this much, there may be a number of things going on. Sleeping too much can be a symptom of thyroid issues, diabetes, low iron, etc. It can also simply be a symptom of depression, particularly seasonal depression.

While you should always go see your physician if you are sleeping over 9 to 10 hours a night, if you find yourself in a general state of lethargy, there are always some things that you can do to give yourself more energy overall.

Be sure you are getting enough exercise. Are you getting 30 minutes of exercise two to three times per week? If not, you don’t necessarily need to join a gym. It could be as simple as going for a short walk on your lunch break or taking five minutes to go for a walk every few hours. Being more active will help you to get more restful sleep and it will increase your overall energy level.

Stay away from stimulants like caffeine and nicotine. It may seem counterproductive to decrease your caffeine intake when you are feeling sleepy but a dependence on stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine can ultimately make you more tired in the long run.

Put your alarm clock or your cell phone on the opposite side of the room. If you force yourself to get out of bed and walk over to the other side of the room in the morning, chances are you will not want to stay in bed all day.

Eat nutritious and nourishing foods. Stay away from junk food with a lot of sugar. You want to eat foods that are high in protein that will give you energy throughout the day.

Don’t do anything in your bed except for sleep. If you are lounging around in bed all day watching Netflix or reading, you will probably be discouraged from getting out of bed. Your bed should be for sleeping and nothing more.

Once again, we cannot stress enough the importance of seeking out care from your doctor. However, it’s important to keep all of these lifestyle changes in mind when you are trying to combat excessive sleepiness.