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Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Q: My hus-band, 65, had a sleep apnea test done overnight a year ago, and it said he does not have it. Lately, when I wake during the night, I listen to him breathe. He snores only some nights, not all. It sounds like he breathes five or six times, then his feet or legs shake a little. Does he have restless leg syndrome?
A: Restless leg syndrome, also called Willis-Ekbom syndrome, is a common and highly variable condition. With RLS, a person has an overwhelming urge to move the legs and an unpleasant sensation in the legs, which worsens when lying down or sitting. Sometimes it’s described as “a creepy-crawling sensation.” The feeling gets better upon moving the legs. These sensations happen more at night than during the day.
The diagnosis is made based on history, but the same sleep study your husband underwent to diagnose sleep apnea would have been abnormal if he had RLS. Abnormal findings on the sleep study alone don’t make the diagnosis.
The sleep study is the best diagnostic tool we have for sleep apnea, but it isn’t perfect. It may be worthwhile to have the doctor take another look at the results of your husband’s study. There is a great deal of information there, and even if it didn’t make the diagnosis of sleep apnea at the time, it may suggest RLS enough to consider a retest.
Q: What is the difference between a brain tumor and brain cancer?
A: The word “tumor” is Latin for “swelling.” Doctors use the word to describe any kind of mass. A neoplastic tumor (“neo” means “new,” and “plasia” means “growth”) can be benign, premalignant or malignant. Only a malignant tumor is a cancer.
In the brain, there are many kinds of benign tumors, such as meningiomas. Because there isn’t much room inside your skull, any tumor is of concern. Benign tumors are usually treated, if they need to be, with surgery or radiation. However, a brain cancer is much worse than a benign tumor, because they keep growing and invade the important structures in the brain. Brain cancers often are very resistant to treatment, but some of them are curable with surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, often in combination.
Dr. Keith Roach’s column runs in Tuesday’s Extra.
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