I take issue with the ideas Danette Kauffman outlined in her response to "My Friend With Cancer Needs a Joint" {Letters, Dec. 22}.

Like Ms. Kauffman, I underwent chemotherapy and experienced nausea, vomiting and anorexia.

Unlike Ms. Kauffman, I did not feel in the least bit embarrassed to discuss these symptoms with my very warm and compassionate medical team.

Also, one of the points that was constantly underscored during my treatment is that all cancer patients are not alike. The treatments are varied and the responses to these treatments are never the same in anyone. I was repeatedly told not to compare myself to another patient, even if they had the same type of cancer as I did. Thus, no one is in a position to judge another person's choice of relief medications.

By the way, Ms. Kauffman, even though my trial of Compazine was given at the "best dosage and timing," it didn't begin to touch my side effects. You see, I am not you. Theresa M. Bell, RN Gaithersburg

More on Radiation Dangers

In her letter to the Health section {Dec. 15} Gloria White McNally says that she is "impressed by the tendency to downgrade damage from low-level exposure" to ionizing radiation. We are in turn impressed that in her zeal to make her point, she has upgraded the damage caused by radiation by carelessly miscalculating dose by a factor of 1,000!

She cites increased incidence of leukemia and breast cancer in Hiroshima survivors exposed to 20 rads and 100 rads, respectively. In the same sentence in which she says that a rem is similar to a rad (true for this purpose), she then says 20 rads is equal to 0.02 rem (not true), and in the next sentence she says that 100 rads is equal to 0.1 rem (also not true; one rad is equal to one rem, which is equal to 1,000 millirem). Thus, she argues that the levels of exposure for these effects are comparable to 0.5 rem that might be received from eating Chernobyl-contaminated food, when in fact they are 40 to 200 times greater.

Just as she does not think that "the public is well-served when casual mention of a 500 millirem dose of annual radiation from food is considered safe by the international Commission on Radiological Protection," we, as nuclear physicists specializing in the effects of radiation on people, do not think the public is well-served by carelessly equating doses from contaminated food to doses received by Hiroshima survivors, which were many times higher. While any unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation is to be avoided, it should be pointed out that 0.5 rem is less than twice what the average American receives each year from natural background radiation and medical X-rays (combined).

Charles M. Eisenhauer


George P. Lamaze


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