Queries from readers

What causes palpitation?

Palpitation (pounding heart beat, harder and faster than normal) could be due to extrinsic causes like ingestion of a stimulant (coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolates, some medications, etc.) and/or cigarette smoking, or due to intrinsic causes like coronary or heart valve diseases. The person feels the heart thumping in the chest that could lead to some degree of discomfort and anxiety. When this happens regularly, in spite of abstinence from the extrinsic causes listed above, prompt medical consultation is recommended.

 Do cellphone radiation shields work?

No, the so-called “radiation shields” for cell phones do not work, and therefore are not effective in protecting the user from radiation, reports the FTC in the United States. If anything at all, this shield “lulls” the user to complacency and thus the user is subjected to a more prolonged radiation exposure because of the false sense of security the unsuspecting consumers will have. While the association between cell phone use and some type of brain tumors is still unclear, it is best to avoid and minimize any type of radiation exposure from whatsoever source. To reduce radiation exposure from cell phones, we recommend the use one of the hands-free (bluetooth) devices now commercially available.

How does tobacco hurt the smoker?

Besides the tissue irritation on the breathing pipes and lungs caused by the fumes and the various toxic chemicals in the cigarette, tobacco also thickens the blood, which makes the smoker (active or passive) more prone to thrombosis (blood clot formation) in the arteries and veins, and aggravates arteriosclerosis (hardening of the artery). On top of this, smoking also speeds up the process of arteriosclerosis (especially the arteries of the heart and brain, abdomen and legs).  Smoking can also cause cancer of the breathing pipes and/or the lungs and cancers in other organs in the body in either gender. Stained teeth and fingers, smoker’s bad breath and a household that smells like tobacco fumes are the most minor effects of smoking.

Are body moisturizing lotions safe?

Yes, in general, hand and body lotions in the market are safe. The frequent (two or more times a day) use of hand and body lotion is recommended because our skin needs moisture to keep it comfortable, healthy and as young looking as possible. Caution: some people may be allergic to some of these commercially available skin moisturizers.

Can trauma to the breasts cause cancer?

Repeated trauma to the breast has been implicated as a possible etiology in the formation of cancer of the breast among women. This could be in the form of biting, pinching, squeezing or rough manual manipulation. The breasts, like the person, must be treated with care and tenderness.

Does diabetes cause blindness?   

Most definitely, especially among persons whose diabetes is untreated, poorly treated or simply brittle and hard to treat. The blindness is due to what is termed diabetic retinopathy. A significant number of blindness in the world today is caused by diabetes. Once the diagnosis of diabetes mellitus is confirmed, prompt and appropriate therapy should be instituted. The diabetic should be disciplined enough to religiously follow the prescribed medical regimen if the complications of the disease, like blindness, leg gangrene, etc. are to be prevented.

Can hydrogen peroxide be used for gurgling?

Yes, hydrogen peroxide could be used for gurgling, but ask your dentist first since he/she knows your dental condition better and can advise you accordingly. Hydrogen peroxide, together with sodium fluoride and other common ingredients (like triclosan) in toothpastes, help prevent tooth decay, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), tartar and plaque formation, and halitosis (bad breath). Hydrogen peroxide is a substance that is incorporated in many toothpaste preparations in the market today. Baking soda is another. In children, the anti-plaque and anti-gingivitis effectiveness of toothpastes is still not proven.

Does skin whitener work? 

There are a few popular preparations of skin (“bleach”) whitener available in the market today which are effective and safe. They are not cheap. One well-known brand costs about One Thousand Pesos for 2 ounces. The basic ingredient is 4 percent hydroquinone. The original use of it was to make skin blemishes (chloasma, melasma, freckles, senile lentigenes and other areas of melanin hyperpigmentation) disappear, but today cosmetologists, many dermatologists and some plastic surgeons, recommend it for the entire face as a “bleaching agent” to whiten the complexion. Those using this should stay away from sunlight to prevent skin burns. One substance, whose side-effect is making the skin lighter, whiter, is glutathione. Before applying skin whitener, one must consult with his/her physician first because of potential allergy, side effects and possible complications of these items.

Can loud music lead to deafness?

Yes, and not only music. Prolonged or repeated exposure to any type of very loud noise or sound can cause damage to the auditory nerve damage, which could lead to varying degrees of hearing impairment, and even to permanent deafness. Headset users should set the volume of sound to a safe level. A simple way to do this is to turn the volume down until you can barely hear it, then gradually increasing the loudness (and adjusting the treble and the base if possible) to a comfortable level.

Can skin ointment be used for the eyes?

No, most definitely no. Skin lotions, creams, gel, ointments, and solutions, are for topical (external or skin) application only, and are not safe for the eyes. There are specific drops and ointments for the eyes. Never use any other preparation, except those prescribed by healthcare professionals specifically for the eyes, which are always labeled “Ophthalmic” or “For ophthalmic use.”

Does surgery make cancer spread?

No, this is a myth. Doing surgery or “opening the patient up” does not cause metastasis (spread) of the cancer. In general, cancer proliferates rapidly to invade surrounding tissues and distant organs. The misconception resulted from the refusal of patients suspected or confirmed to have cancer to be operated on early when first advised, and had delayed the surgery so much that the malignant tumor had already spread beyond help before acceding to have the operation. So, when the surgeons operated on them that late, invariably the cancer had already spread all over. When the patients soon expired, people blamed the surgery as the cause of the spread. Today, almost everybody knows that prompt detection and early operation in the treatment of cancer gives the best chance for a cure for majority of patients with malignancy.


Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA,  a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States. Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com

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