There is effective treatment for auditory hallucinations
BY KEITH ROACH, M.D.
Dear Dr. Roach: Years ago, I went to a doctor for sinus problems. He needed to put a drainage hole in my ear. For a while, everything was fine. But now I hear people talking to me. They say they are hooked up to my head. They talk through my head day and night, and I can’t get any peaceful sleep or rest. Sometimes they talk very ugly and vulgar. They know everything I think, say or write, and they tell me about it. I seem to be losing my memory as well. Do you know what this is? I’m 78 years old, and I need my life back. — I.A.
Answer: The voices are not real. They are called auditory hallucinations, and they are the hallmark of a general class of mental illnesses called psychoses. Schizophrenia is a common cause of auditory hallucination, but it is unusual to see someone at 78 years old with the first episode. In older adults, psychosis can be the result of a large number of medical conditions.
The best thing for you to do is see both a psychiatrist and a medical doctor (that is, a doctor specializing in a field like internal medicine or family practice) so you can be evaluated. It’s very important that you go right away, as there is very effective treatment to stop the voices and get your life back.
Dear Dr. Roach: I have been reading about former President Ronald Reagan and the way he was treated for cancer. The reports say he was treated in Germany with oxygen therapy and was cured. Why aren’t more doctors using this treatment if it was so successful? Is it a money thing? — M.F.L.
Answer: The historical record shows that President Reagan was treated in 1985 for a cancerous polyp at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. His cancer was found during a routine colonoscopy. It was successfully treated with surgery, requiring removal of a section of colon. He underwent another colonoscopy in 1987, and four polyps were removed, none of which was cancerous.
Oxygen therapy is not an appropriate or effective treatment for colon (or other) cancer, which usually is curable if found early enough. This is why I agree with the recommendations for colon cancer screening, most commonly done via colonoscopy.
I found on the internet two separate versions of the story that President Reagan was treated in Germany. There is no evidence to support either of them. I agree that the story here is about money — but it’s about unscrupulous people preying on fears of cancer to promote an expensive and useless treatment. Very little makes me angrier than someone exploiting people with cancer (or those who fear they have cancer) with a useless (or worse) treatment that may prevent someone from getting possibly curative treatment through conventional means, as President Reagan did.
Dear Dr. Roach: Could you comment on a venous lake? After having one on my lip for nine years, it was just removed, with good results. — N.L.B.
Answer: A venous lake is a benign skin condition in the lip. They are more common in older adults, and represent enlarged blood vessels. They can bleed easily and can be cosmetically significant. They need to be differentiated from a type of mole (blue nevus) and from a type of cancer (nodular melanoma), which an experienced clinician can do, usually by physical exam and by compressing the lesion with a glass slide (the venous lake disappears, the other two do not). They can be removed with surgery or via laser treatment.
Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu or request an order form of available health newsletters at 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. Health newsletters may be ordered from www.rbmamall.com.