Q: I get leg cramps when I walk. What could be causing this?
Dr. Robert Connaughton, vascular surgeon, Maui Health System: Claudication is a condition that causes pain and weakness in the legs during exercise. It’s caused by blockages in the arteries that bring blood to your legs. When the blood flow is restricted, the muscles in your legs can’t get enough oxygen and they stop working. This condition is more common in smokers, including marijuana smokers.
Typically, the person can walk for a little while before they suddenly feel a cramp in their leg. The pain will go away if they stop and rest, but if they start moving again, the cramp will come back after they walk about the same distance.
There is an easy test to screen for this, called the ankle brachial index, which compares the blood pressure in your legs to the blood pressure in the rest of your body. Claudication is easy to fix with an angioplasty or stent if it’s caught early. But if it’s not addressed, poor circulation can lead to more serious problems, like sores on your feet and toes, or ultimately the loss of the limb.
Q: I heard that using certain kinds of deodorant can increase the risk for breast cancer. Is that true?
Dr. Derrick Beech, surgical oncologist, Maui Health System: Deodorants and antiperspirants are not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. (However, aluminum in antiperspirants does have a positive association with the development of dementia.) There are several myths about breast cancer, such as the idea that wearing underwire bras or the radiation from mammograms or X-rays increases your risk. Both are myths, with no link to an increased breast cancer risk.
Q: What are the benefits of screening for colon and rectal cancer, and what are the different types of screening?
Dr. Derrick Beech, surgical oncologist, Maui Health System: Colon and rectal cancer screening is recommended, starting at age 50, for the average-risk person. People with a strong family history of these cancers should consider screening at an earlier age — say, 45. There are several ways to screen for colon cancer. The “gold standard” is colonoscopy, but other studies such as the FIT test, which checks for blood in the stool, can be used in low-risk individuals as well. Colon cancer is one of the few “preventable” cancers as it usually develops from a polyp. If the polyp is discovered and removed during a colonoscopy before it becomes cancer, then cancer has been prevented.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealthsystem.org/contact.