Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 86, Tuesday, October 6, 2009



Dear Doctor,
Previously you had mentioned several times about abnormal oral habits and how it is related to oral cancer. I am a smoker, alcoholic and have been addicted to marijuana for about 11 years. How can these initiate oral cancer? What are the initial signs of oral cancer?

Recently I noticed a loss of taste and appetite. My mouth is very dry. Is it a sign of oral cancer? By the way, I know the adverse effect of smoking on our health but how do I quit smoking and other bad habits?
- Obaidul Aziz

Dear Mr. Aziz,
Firstly, your loss of appetite and dryness of the mouth are not signs of oral cancer, rather these are signs of addiction! This is a universal truth that consumption of tobacco in any form can increase your risk of developing oral cancer.

Tobacco products damage your gum tissue by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. An example of the effect is receding gums. A receding gum line exposes the tooth roots and increases your risk of developing a sensitivity to hot and cold, or tooth decay in these unprotected areas. Smoking also can contribute to bad breath, stains on your teeth and tongue, and a build-up of tartar on your teeth.

Signs and symptoms that could indicate oral cancer include:

Any sign of irritation, like tenderness, burning or a sore that will not heal;

Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or lips;

Development of a lump, or a leathery, wrinkled or bumpy patch inside your mouth;

Colour changes to your oral soft tissues (grey, red or white spots or patches), rather than a healthy pink colour;

Difficulty in chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue;

If you have tried to quit smoking, you know how hard it can be. It is hard because nicotine is a very addictive drug. For some people, it can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Quitting is hard. Usually people make two or three attempts, or more, before finally being able to quit. Each time you try to quit, you can learn about what helps and what hurts.

Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you will ever do.

You will live longer and live better.

Quitting will lower your chance of having a heart attack, stroke, or cancer.

If you are pregnant, quitting smoking will improve your chances of having a healthy baby.

The people you live with, especially your children, will be healthier.

You will have extra money to spend on things other than cigarettes.

Four keys for quitting

Studies have shown that these four steps will help you quit and quit for good. You have the best chances of quitting if you use them together.

Get ready

Set a date for quitting.

Change your environment. Get rid of ALL cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car, and place of work. Don't let people smoke in your home.

Review your past attempts to quit. Think about what worked and what did not.

Once you quit, don't smoke


Get support and encouragement
Studies have shown that you have a better chance of being successful if you have help. You can get support in many ways:

Tell your family, friends, and co-workers that you are going to quit and want their support. Ask them not to smoke around you or leave cigarettes out.

Talk to your health care provider (for example, doctor, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, psychologist, or smoking counsellor).

Learn new skills and behaviors
Try to distract yourself from urges to smoke. Talk to someone, go for a walk, or get busy with a task.

When you first try to quit, change your routine. Take a different route to work. Drink tea instead of coffee. Eat breakfast in a different place.

Do something to reduce your stress. Take a hot bath, exercise, or read a book.

Plan something enjoyable to do every day.

Drink a lot of water and other fluids.

Be prepared for relapse or difficult situations
Most relapses occur within the first 3 months after quitting. Don't be discouraged if you start smoking again. Remember, most people try several times before they finally quit. Here are some difficult situations to watch for:

Alcohol. Avoid drinking alcohol. Drinking lowers your chances of success.

Other smokers. Being around smoking can make you want to smoke.

Weight gain. Many smokers will gain weight when they quit, usually less than 10 pounds. Eat a healthy diet and stay active. Don't let weight gain distract you from your main goalquitting smoking. Some quit-smoking medications may help delay weight gain.

Bad mood or depression. There are a lot of ways to improve your mood other than smoking.

If you are having problems with any of these situations, talk to your doctor or other health care provider.

Dear Doctor,
I am a 34-year-old male. I have a lot of small blackish elevated spots around both sides of my neck and face. It wasn't so bad a few years ago but now seems to be increasing and look very ugly. I would like to get rid of them but don't know where to go to. Also I am afraid of the outcome like scarring and discolouration. My mother says that these are achil and homeopathy has a cure. What do you think I should do?
- Troubled

Well, of course you should get treatment. According to your description it sounds like you have viral warts or what your mother said in Bangla- achil. I have no knowledge of Homeopathy so cant advise you on that. From a cosmetic surgeons point of view first a proper diagnosis is needed, then if they are warts CO2 laser ablation is the best treatment. There will be no residual scars.

Dear Doctor,
I am suffering from ear problem for last 3 to 4 weeks. It started after I dried my ears with cotton buds after taking a bath. I took some painkillers thinking that the pain would go away but it only worsened. I went to my neighbourhood doctor who gave me an antibiotic to take for five days. But the heavy feeling persists and also there is a discharge. Should I continue taking the drugs or not?
- Zayed

It doesn't look like your condition is improving much. You should definitely consult with an ENT consultant as soon as possible, who needs to examine your ear properly. You may have a fungal infection, which is very common at this time of the year. Fungus grows very comfortably in this hot and humid weather. You need to do it soon as there may be perforation of the ear drum if its kept untreated for long, and that would be a disaster as perforations are very hard to heal. So please go to an ENT specialist as soon as possible.

By the way

Fight fair

NASTY arguments between couples increase the risk of clogged arteries. Studies show women's hearts suffered when they made or heard hostile comments; men's hearts reacted badly to domineering, controlling words. It's normal to have a fight with your spouseit's a matter of how you fight. What you should put off-limits is getting nasty, sarcastic, or personal, or using body language like rolling your eyes. It's better to simply agree to disagree.

Under A Different Sky

I spent eight youthful years of my early 20s and into the years almost touching 30, under the regime of one of the most hated man in the world. I remember thinking there is at least one good thing about turning 30, no Bush!

To get through those eight years, I ate out almost four times a week, bought the world with plastic and took up running and scuba diving. But still that wasn't enough to keep myself occupied so I tried smoking and realised I couldn't inhale too well. So I quit after a week and discovered cigars.

Those only shaded by mind for half an hours or so but that was not long enough to sustain through the eight years. So I found a confined space, surrounded by four walls and a big window. I started spending nine hours of my day there with fingers on the keyboard or in meetings with many others like me carrying blank expressions.

Every fifteen days my bank account would get bigger which I would then promptly empty out for more things and experiences, none of which I can recall very well right now. Bush watched all this; well, he slept for most parts of it, made a few comedy shows, played Playstation and Xbox with the world.

Then one day he was gone just like that, taking my 20s in one of his pockets along with America's reputation, loads of oil money and a love note from Bin-Laden.

With Bush gone and Obama in town, I am not sure what has changed yet besides my slowing metabolism, more homes going for foreclosures, more blue bloods living off chunky bonuses.

Running down the stairs of the Lincoln memorial overlooking DC, I wanted to claim the whole city as mine, once the roads, the sculptures, the stupid pigeons even, the homeless men and the powerful women. Now that this city feels less like mine and as I am trying to figure out to whom it now belongs, I replay in my brain memories of under-spent time with the tree outside my window, the bright greens and the blues of the sky and the roads.

Can it really be this beautiful here, I wonder these days while I go for my evening runs down the streets that I had forgotten about. Amidst this beauty I try to find what strikes me the most, what really gets my heart pumping, my eyes wanting and I can't think of one thing. None. Am I done then? With Bush and my 20s gone, am I done trying to wait for a miracle?

Planes don't fly too close to my apartment here and there are no stray street children either. There are mothers pushing their babies on fancy strollers: children of the future, healthy and already glowing with supremacy. The faces of the new generation look nothing like that of the last. Brunettes and brown eyes everywhere with a new shade of skin are children carrying blood from all over the world, ready to challenge us to accept defeat. I look at my changing face too, next to the new born and I see how it's all bigger than what we thought it was, bigger than Bush, bigger than Obama, bigger than youth and Bin-Laden's cave videos.

In between Burger Kings opening up in army bases in Afghanistan and ten year olds getting fined for selling lemonade on suburban America I wonder now, who gives? And when he gives who takes it? To answer that, memorised words come out of me like vomit and I blur out “god bless,” “yes we can,” “nuclear weapons,” “global recession” and “one nation, under god, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”



home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2009 The Daily Star