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Themes of the Week

Breast lump

Dear Alice,

My doctor found a lump in my breast recently. She told me not to worry, but have it checked out soon, by another doctor. She said that it did not feel cancerous, but may be a cyst or fibroadenoma. Can you tell me about what these are exactly, and does this mean a greater chance for breast cancer later in life? What should I expect? Thanks for your help.

— Concerned

Family history of breast cancer: When do I need to get a mammogram?

Dear Alice,

If there is a strong family history of breast cancer in the family on the mother's side (including the mother), then how often should the daughters get mammograms and when should they start?

Mammogram

Dear Alice,

What exactly happens during a mammogram, and does it hurt?

Breast cancer prevention and nutrition

Dear Alice,

What types of foods should I eat to prevent breast cancer?

— Concerned about breast cancer

Male breast cancer

1) Dear Alice,

Are there any differences in breast cancer between men and women?

— Gender sensitive

2) Dear Alice,

I feel that I might have male breast cancer. But I don't know how this is possible. I am young, younger than 18. And I would like to know how male breast cancer is contracted. Plus if I do, I'm afraid of telling my parents. What should I do?

Skin tag removal?

1) Alice,

Over the past six months, I've been getting lots of "skin tags." I've had one or two under my arms for years but suddenly they're popping up on my neck. They're not discolored, but they're still kind of gross. What ARE these things? What causes them? How can I get rid of them? Are they preventable?

Signed,
Tagged for Life?

2) Hi Alice!

This is disgusting and embarrassing but I have these things I refer to as "skin tags" on my armpits and I started developing them on my bikini line. Needless to say I stopped shaving my bikini line but they don't go away. Is there anything to do other than minor surgery to get rid of them? Do you even know what I'm talking about? I don't have a problem with shaving cream or razor burn. They are embarrassing.

— Thinking about Spring Break

Obsessive face picking

Dear Alice,

My girlfriend has a terrible obsession with picking her face. It is not that she has bad skin or acne, but, when she is in a certain state, she will stand in front of the mirror for hours and pick her face to shreds. It leaves her with horrible sores and open cuts covering her face. One day, she will be fine, and the next day, she will look like a war casualty. After she does this, she feels that she has to hide for days.

Aside from these concentrated sessions in front of the mirror, she is constantly picking her face while she is studying or reading or talking on the phone. Often, the state of her picked face affects our plans -- for example, she may not come with me to see my family even though we had planned to go together. When she is particularly self-conscious about it, she forbids me to look at her. She will cover her face with her hand or hair if I am even gazing anywhere near her. It is hard to communicate when I cannot see her face, and it affects our kissing and other intimacy.

We are very close and have been together for two years. We have talked about this many times and it does not seem like there has been any change. Mostly, I have been supportive by listening to her and comforting her. But, at times, I have been upset and have let her know. Some of her family members do not hesitate to be cruel to her when she "looks like shit." But she is well aware of her problem, but cannot seem to stop. She has had this obsession for over three years, and it is really making her miserable, and is making me wonder if it will ever go away on its own.

We have talked about the possibility of some kind of therapy, but she does not feel that it could help. She seems to be terrified of having to see any kind of therapist. I feel that somewhere inside, she needs to stay feeling miserable even though she is clearly genuine when she is cursing the terrible life this habit makes for her.

I have every intention of staying with her, but I feel that her obsession and the self-consciousness and misery that come with it are keeping us from getting closer. How can I have more of a role in affecting some kind of change in this? I feel that there are things that I have no control over, but they affect me and the one I love deeply.

—No pock marks

Moles that change color or increase in number: Cause for concern?

1) Dear Alice,

Over the span of the last couple of years, I have noticed a significant number of moles appearing on my body. They have been appearing everywhere from my neck to my inner thighs. I had one on my neck since childhood, but now have so many more. Is this normal? Is it something I should be concerned with? And does child bearing have any relevance to this happening?

2) Dear Alice,

I have a mole which has turned very dark purple, and grown a bit in size (still small). This is the second time it has done this — last time was a couple of weeks ago, and it slowly faded back to almost nothing until today. Should I be very concerned about this?

Wrinkle remedies

Dear Alice,

I am twenty-five years old yet have been noticing a lot of wrinkles around my eyes. I have started to use baby oil as an intense moisturizer — is this a good idea? Do you have any other suggestions for over-the-counter wrinkle remedies?

Bags under the eyes: How? Why?

Dear Alice,

I was wondering what physiological phenomenon makes the pockets below our eyes swell or go blue/dark when we are really tired? I suppose it is blood, but I don't understand why they appear only there, and what makes them come about. I know the best way to get rid of them is sleep, but are there other ways to alleviate them?

Family death five years ago

Dear Alice,

I am a generally happy graduate student here, with family nearby and good friends. However, I wanted to ask if maybe I should try counseling. When I was in my late teens, I had a traumatic family experience (death of a family member). Some months later I entered college, and promptly began to drink like a fish. I don't really know, to this day, how much of it was for fun and companionship and whatever, and how much was to dull the pain of recent events at home. Anyway, I stopped drinking the next year, and have since drunk alcohol with no signs (to me) that I had an alcoholism problem, which was often suggested to me that first year of college.

Now, I am in school, doing what I want, and involved for the last two years with a man I love very much, and who loves me. We are headed for long-term commitment, but I am afraid of wrecking it, because I often feel like I am freaking out and will sometimes cry and become very, very depressed, I think over these events I have mentioned. My guess, unfortunately, is that I have a tendency for melodrama and depression anyway. In which case, I would just try to rein my emotions in and get control of myself. I need some reassurance, I guess.

— Emotion-laden

Family meets faith

Dear Alice,

I have been with my partner for almost six years. We are both from different religions (I'm Muslim and he's Hindu). I would like to raise my children as Muslims. He says we should raise them with both, but I completely disagree with this as I disagree with the religion of Hinduism. I have read a lot about Hinduism and asked him to do the same about Islam for 1 year now—I even gave him the Quran, but he just can't be bothered.

I'm due to go abroad for three months in two months' time, and I think that we should break up because we can't agree on our future. My parents are completely against this marriage, and so is his family. If I marry him, I risk losing my family completely. We are great together because we hardly argue unless it's about religion. I thought, perhaps, if he started reading and asking questions about my religion, he might convert (because then we would not have a problem) or even start to see things in a new light. He is brought up only believing what his parents told him about religion—he does not actually have any proof or evidence telling him what they have been telling him is correct about Hinduism.

I am just tired of this as we are going around in a circle and cannot seem to agree. I already am taking a big step by marrying him even though he is of a different faith. Please help.

Family feuds over furnace

Dear Alice,

Please help a family dispute. What is the optimal temperature to keep the furnace at during the day and night during the winter months, and can keeping the temperature too high result in increased illness?

Family history of breast cancer: When do I need to get a mammogram?

Dear Alice,

If there is a strong family history of breast cancer in the family on the mother's side (including the mother), then how often should the daughters get mammograms and when should they start?

How can I help my family member who struggles with alcohol?

Dear Alice,

My granddad has been an alcoholic for ages — way before I was born. I am really worried about my granddad’s drinking. My father doesn't like me to see him when he is drunk, but that is kind of hard. What are the best groups for alcoholics? And most importantly, what should I do?

Thanks,
Needing A Lot of Help

Friend's mother has cancer — What should I say or do?

Dear Alice,

The mother of one of my best friends from high school was diagnosed with liver cancer a few months ago. She is quite ill and in a lot of pain. She's been in and out of the hospital lately and things don't look so good. My own father was diagnosed with prostate cancer a year and a half ago, but he is really doing quite well (with medication, treatment, etc.). My friend's mother will probably be dead within six months to a year, so I'm not going through an immediate crisis.

My question is: What things should (and shouldn't) I be saying to, and doing for, my friend? I try so hard to be there for her but I really don't know what she's going through. She is very matter-of-fact about the fact that her mom is going to die. But I'm sure there's something I could be doing, isn't there? I hate feeling like I'm actually making her feel worse! Could you give me some idea of what she might be going through right now and how I could help? Even if it's a method for taking her mind off it occasionally (if that's a good idea).

Thanks,
Just Trying to Help

I'm worried about my friend's escalating drug use

Dear Alice,

I have a friend at school who quit smoking last year in January, and went back to it in October. I have no idea why, and he also started doing other drugs, such as smoking blunts, doing ecstasy, and taking steroids. The drug that I am worried about him doing the most is ecstasy, because it's a dangerous drug. Also, he is always talking about doing drugs. How can I help him? I still want him to be my friend. Please help. This is serious.

How can I help a friend who thinks they have cancer get help?

Dear Alice,

I have a friend who thinks he may have testicular cancer. I am the only person who knows. He is really embarrassed about it and refuses to tell anyone else. But I think his main problem is that he's afraid of what would happen next if it turns out that he did. I'll often tell him that it's not that embarrassing and he can tell his parents, but since I'm a girl, I just don't understand.

I have tried absolutely everything to make him tell someone, anyone really. But he won't. I am truly scared for him and have no idea what I would do without him. What should I do? Thanks for taking the time to read this, I really appreciate it and could really use the help.

— E

Help for friends who drink too much

Dear Alice,

I have two friends who I think are drinking too much. I don't know what to do. They are very defensive should anyone say anything to them about their excessive habit, and a lot of our friends are giving up on them. This has become a daily thing and their schoolwork and friendships are all suffering. They are both 21; one recently broke up with his girlfriend of several years and the other has been single for a while and he hates it. I know that has a lot to do with it. Please suggest some non-intrusive ways to help them. I'm really at a loss.

Thank you,
A concerned friend

Friends coming to town – Hosting anxiety?

Dear Alice,

I am a New Yorker who is in college at the moment. Several of my friends from school are living and working in the city this summer, and I love having them around. Whenever I make plans with them, though, I feel a great pressure to make sure they have a good time. As the person who knows New York best (the subway, good restaurants, etc.), I feel like it is my responsibility to make plans and decisions when we go out, and I feel inordinately guilty or embarrassed if the plans ever go awry (e.g., if I mistake the address of a bar, if a restaurant turns out to be unexpectedly expensive, or even if the local subway line unexpectedly switches to the express — things that are often totally out of my control). I know this is silly; my friends can clearly take care of themselves, and I know they don't depend on me for fun. But the pressure that I create for myself is detracting from my own enjoyment. How can I stop holding myself to these absurd expectations and just enjoy myself?

— New York Native

Booty enhancing exercises

Dear Alice,

My name is Emily. I was wondering if you know of any exercises or something that could help me have a thicker and bigger butt, that doesn't involve surgery. If you could help me out, that would be great! Thank You.

— Emily

Back strengthening and stretching exercises

Dear Alice,

What exercises strengthen your back, particularly your lower back?

Steam room versus sauna?

Dear Alice,

I am wondering what is the difference between a steam room and the sauna, is one better than the other? My gym has both and I am interested in trying them out.

— Confused

What's a healthy weightlifting schedule?

Dear Alice,

Is it healthy to lift weights everyday, or is it better to lift every other day?

What's spinning?

Dear Alice,

I've been reading about spinning classes in a lot of health magazines. What are they?

Inexpensive yoga classes?

Dear Alice,

A friend of mine bought me a month's worth of yoga classes over the summer. I loved it! I've never found an exercise/fitness regimen that I actually WANTED to stick with. It helped with a lot of my long-standing physical issues (balance, back pain, stress, fatigue) and was a perfect balance of stretching and strengthening for my fitness goals. The only problem is that now that my month is over... I can't really afford to do it anymore. I've looked all around for inexpensive and conveniently located studios, but I can't find anything that's in my price range or fits in my schedule. What resources are there for broke aspiring yogis? Are there any guidelines for practicing yoga at home? Are there any exercise routines that are similar to yoga (i.e., low impact, stretching + strengthening) that are less expensive or easier to do without an instructor?

Fall asleep faster

Dear Alice,

I can't go to sleep at night. What are some helpful ways to help me go to sleep faster?

Acne treatment

1) Dear Alice,

What is the best treatment for acne?

— Zit-city

2) Dear Alice,

I would like to know something about acne. I am a high school student, and have gotten acne. I got it for more than two years, and would like to find a way to cure it. I currently use Neutrogena's Acne face wash, Neutrogena's overnight acne treatment, and some face washers. They have decreased, but I really want them to be gone.

I also read that fatty foods don't contribute to acne, but any case, I still eat low-fat foods for healthy reasons.

I hope you can help me. Thanks a lot for your help.

— Anxious about Acne

3) Dear Alice,

What medications do you recommend for acne?

— Pimples

Switch to organic foods?

Dear Alice,

I've been thinking about switching to organic food because of the supposed drawbacks of inorganic food, but I'm having trouble finding unbiased information on the subject. What are the advantages and disadvantages of eating, buying, and producing organic food versus inorganic food? Should I make the switch to organic?

Thanks,
Concerned Global Citizen

How to find a therapist

Dear Alice,

I am trying to find a therapist. I have to go in-network for my health insurance to cover it, so I have this long list of therapists, but I don't know anything about them. Do you have any suggestions as to how to go about choosing one and/or questions to ask? Is there a "Go Ask Alice!" answer I could read for this info? I found my last therapist through the recommendation of a colleague at work and another through my school's counseling service. Now I need to spread my wings and find a professional therapist on my own! Yikes!

Thanks for any help you can give me!!!!!!!!!!!

How do I let someone know they're special?

Dear Alice,

I would like some advice on how to make women feel special. You see, there's a girl I see on the bus who I think is the most beautiful girl in the world. I wanted to talk to her, but I am extremely shy. I'm thinking of writing her a letter and giving her a rose. Yet, I do not know what to really write to make her feel like responding. My other question would be if she is interested, how could I keep her? I really would like to meet this girl. Thank you for your time.

Reaching out for help with substance abuse

Alice,

I have a huge dilemma. I have an addiction to a certain drug that has turned my life upside down. That drug is crack cocaine. The worst part about it is that nobody knows this but me. Nobody knows that right now, my life is on the brink. How do you express this problem to people who don't even have a clue as to what you are dealing with? How do you reach out to the people who you love and trust when you are so ashamed of the truth? One thing that I do know is that I'd better do something fast because if I don't, I will lose my fight with life. HELP!!

Wants to feel more confident about self

Dear Alice,

My boyfriend and I have been together for two years. He always compliments me and is very good to me. My problem is that I feel funny undressing in front of him and I can't wear sexy nighties in front of him. I have a very low self-esteem. When I look in the mirror, I see fat. I want to be able to wear sexy things for my boyfriend and feel good about myself. What can I do??

The upside of a long-distance relationship

Alice,

My friend and I have been involved in a long distance relationship for six months now. We keep in touch with each other on a regular basis, calling and visiting each other. I feel that the distance between us will cause our relationship to end. We have been seeing each other for a year and a half. What are our chances of being together in the future?

— Miles away

Cultivating optimism: How can I gain a sunnier perspective?

Dear Alice,

How can I become more optimistic?

Seasonal allergy eye relief?

Dear Alice:

Like many others during this season, I have been suffering from allergies for the past week or so. I have the usual indications such as runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes. I have been taking over-the-counter medicine, and it seems to work well for sneezing and runny nose. However, I often find my eyes very itchy and watery. It bothers me a lot since I need to study. But, with my irritated eyes, it is sometimes difficult to read for a long time.

Do you know of any medicine that would help me? Also, sometimes I wash my eyes with cold water when they bother me. It seems to help a little, but does not last very long. Do you recommend using eyedrops like Visine?

Signed,
Suffering from allergies

Can't wake up in the winter

Alice,

I have always been a poor "getter-upper" in the mornings, but lately I haven't even awakened when the alarm goes off. I just sleep right through it and wake up at around noon. I have been missing classes regularly and it's very distressing! I haven't been going to bed any later (I go to sleep at around 2:30 or 3 AM and have since the beginning of school and I used to wake up at around ten for my class). I haven't been eating or exercising differently. Could this be a result of the shift in weather or in the clocks? Does it take time for the body to adjust to the new season?

— Sleepyhead

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Alice,

Every winter, especially when the days are short, I feel tired, depressed, and unproductive. Then the spring comes and I start feeling myself again. Is this just a normal seasonal cycle? I've heard about SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, but don't know much about it.

— Melancholy Baby

Does eating fat keep the body warm in winter?

1) Alice,

Is it true that eating fat keeps the body warm in cold weather?

— Land's End Ad

2) Hi Alice,

What I'd like to know is, does my body burn more calories to keep me warm when it's cold out? Thanks!

— Chilly in NY

Need help to start dating

Dear Alice,

I am beginning my sophomore year in college. Last year, I was disappointed to not become friendly with any women. I have been back a week and I'm looking to turn my situation around. I would like to start dating once and for all. Any suggestions?

— More for the Sophomore

Does eating ice correct an iron deficiency?

Dear Alice,

My sister has been told by one doctor that eating ice is effective for an iron deficiency. Another doctor says that this is balderdash and not effective.

What is the deal? Which opinion is correct? Why is there no consensus on the feedback physicians give for this subject?

I also would like pointers to more information for this topic.

Thanks.

Hands and feet get cold easily

Dear Alice,

My fingers and toes are always cold, even when it is really warm out. How do I keep them from being cold all the time?

Working out while getting over a cold?

Dear Alice,

Is it ok to work out while getting over a cold?

Goosebumps and the shivers

Dear Alice,

Why do you shiver? What causes "goosebumps"?

Lena

Oral sex and ice cubes?

Dear Alice,

I see that in several messages and answers, that reference is made to oral sex accompanied by the use of ice cubes. I'm pretty ignorant about this and would be very grateful to you if you would tell me more about this. My boyfriend and I have a very good sex life and we enjoy making love, but we're also on the look-out for new things to try. I've asked my friends about this and some of them thought it was a joke! Thanks for the help.

— A curious Irishwoman

Hot and bothered by static electric shocks

Hi Alice,

I have a question about static electricity. I constantly get shocked when I'm getting out of my car, touching people or even certain objects. The worst thing is I can't brush my hair because of static electricity. I actually have to rub a fabric softener sheet on my head and hair brushes. Please help me with this issue if you can.

— S

The male hot spot: Massaging the prostate

Dear Alice,

I have a question that I don't think you have addressed before (hope it's not too kinky). I am interested in learning the technique for doing a prostate massage. My partner enjoys being anally stimulated and I am sure this would be a "winner" for us. I just need to know the proper way to do it.

It's hot here — Where can I store my medication?

Dear Alice,

Recently, I was reading the fine print on the box and saw that it said, "Don't store above 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit)." Here, the ambient temperature is normally 35-40 degrees! (I don't have air conditioning). I looked online and the internet said you shouldn't stick pills in the refrigerator because of the moisture.

What is my best option for storing the medication?

Thank you,

JZ

Should I cash in on hot banker?

Hi Alice...

Here is a tough one! I need your help! I was wondering how to approach the issue of meeting a financial officer at my bank! I usually do all my banking through the web or phone, but recently had to go into my branch to update my account. I was greeted and assisted by a man who was not only gorgeous, but fashionable and funny, too! I want to know if he is available and/or if he would be interested in doing something some time, but due to his professional relationship with me as a client, I don't know what would be appropriate! Have any ideas? Or is this man completely off limits?

Dripping candle wax — Playful or painful?

Hello Alice,

My girlfriend and I like to drip hot candle wax on each other. Is that safe? Can there be any damage or anything? I wouldn't exactly want anything bad to happen to either of us down there... Thanks!

Can’t find information on the site about your health concern or issue?