Talking to kids about cancer treatment
Q: My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she’s going to have to go through a lumpectomy and chemotherapy. She’s really agonizing over how and what to tell her 10-year-old daughter. Any advice? — Sharon B., Lincoln, Nebraska
A: At age 10, kids understand a lot, so your sister doesn’t have to worry too much about her daughter grasping the basic medical facts. They’re much more reassuring than any worries her daughter might cook up or hear from friends. But emotional reactions need careful management. It’s important for your sister to tell her daughter about her diagnosis when everyone is rested and comfortable, and there’s plenty of time on the schedule.
First, she needs to explain the basics, such as what cancer is, that it isn’t contagious and that her specific cancer is effectively treated these days.
Then, she should explain why she’s decided on her treatment and mention that she may feel pretty rotten sometimes, but when that happens she’s getting better.
Your sister should ask her daughter what questions she has or if she’d like to talk again later. Then she should keep an eye out for any change in behavior or mood swings. And make yourself available to your niece. She might open up to you about concerns she’s reluctant to discuss with her mom.
Q: My husband, 62, has high blood pressure and heart disease, and now I hear it can affect his brain. How does that work? — Kay D., Iowa City, Iowa
A: High blood pressure endangers blood vessels everywhere, including in the brain.
A study recently published in Neurology found that high blood pressure late in life (65-plus) boosted the risk for constriction/blockage in the brain’s blood vessels that are associated with vascular dementia by 46 percent. The researchers also found that elevated systolic blood pressure increased Alzheimer’s disease-associated tangles in thebrain.
Unfortunately, 50 percent of older folks with high blood pressure aren’t receiving beneficial treatment. In a 2013 study, researchers found that taking potassium-sparing diuretics reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s nearly 75 percent.
A study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association meeting recently found that when systolic blood pressure was lowered to 120, folks were 19 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive and info-processing problems and 15 percent less likely to develop cognitive decline and dementia.
Email questions for Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen to youdocsdaily@sharecare. com.