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Doc: Follow doctors’ plan for cancer treatment

Keith Roach
To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: My brother-in-law is 57 and has pancreatic cancer the size of a golf ball. He is on his second chemo treatment. The doctors first want to shrink the tumor. They eventually want to take out the tumor. Do you think this is wise? He does not have cancer anyplace else in his body. I am worried that once the tumor shrinks it will probably spread to his other organs.

M.M.

Dear M.M.: Pancreatic cancer is so dangerous because it usually shows no symptoms until the cancer is very advanced. The only hope for a cure is a complete surgical removal, but that is not possible for most people. There are some tumors called “borderline resectable,” and in those cases, the team — consisting of a surgeon and a medical oncologist — will sometimes recommend treating the tumor with chemotherapy to try to shrink it enough that it can be removed. This is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy. It is also hoped that if there has been some spread already that can’t be seen by a CT scan, the chemotherapy might kill those cancer cells.

It does not always work, but if his team has recommended it, it is the only hope, outside of a miracle, for a cure.

Dear Dr. Roach: Frequently I see or hear information about people who have dry eyes, with the usual treatment being drops or medication to resolve the problem.

My problem is just the opposite: frequent tearing. It’s not constant but periodic, to the point that I must wipe my eyes. I am 82 years old, in good health, with a recent diagnosis of cataracts, no known allergies and using only one prescription medication, for high blood pressure.

Can you give me any recommendations before I see my eye doctor on my next visit?

M.S.

Dear M.S.: There are many causes of tearing eyes, and your eye doctor certainly will be able to help you. In the meantime, one approach may seem counterintuitive, but is frequently the answer: Try using lubricating eyedrops on a frequent basis. Often, the eyes tear in response to dryness. The eye has two different systems for lubrication, and when one system doesn’t work, the other can compensate. Using the eyedrops regularly can prevent that tearing.

Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.