Jewish World Review Jan. 14, 2003 / 11 Shevat, 5763

Family health: Cancer-prevention update




By Kathy Sena

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | A test to detect Human Papillomavirus on the cervix has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use as a follow-up test after an abnormal Pap smear. The Hybrid Capture II HPV Test is performed by a health-care provider using a cervical swab. The test identifies the type of HPV infection and can differentiate between high-risk types (those associated with cervical cancer) and low-risk types.

Human Papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, according to the American Social Health Association. While some types can cause genital warts, most HPV infections have no noticeable symptoms. Because some types of HPV infection can lead to cervical cancer, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with many other health organizations, recommend that women receive routine Pap smears, which can identify abnormal changes in cervical cells.

According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Hybrid Capture II HPV Test has a sensitivity of 90 percent or greater, meaning that it is highly likely to detect HPV if it is present on the cervix. However, the chance of the test resulting in afalse-positive reading is 5 percent to 20 percent. As with any medical test, you'll want to talk with your doctor to determine whether this one is appropriate for you.

For more information on HPV, go to the American Medical Women's Association's National HPV & Cervical Cancer Campaign Web site at www.hpvandcervicalcancercampaign.org/home.htm. For more information on the new HPV test, visit www.thehpvtest.com.

SHOULD YOU SCAN FOR HEALTH PROBLEMS?

Full-body scans are being advertised daily on radio and TV, with claims that the scans can detect many different types of cancer as well as other serious health problems. Should you get scanned? Probably not, for a number of reasons, according to a recent article in the MayoClinic Women's Healthsource Newsletter.

A computerized tomography (CT) scan, performed on someone with no specific symptoms, hasn't been shown to be an efficient or cost-effective way to detect disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. The scan costs about $2,000, and most insurance plans don't cover it. And false-positive results can lead to more testing and unnecessary procedures -- not to mention a lot of anxiety. On the flip side, a CT scan can't detect every disease, so you may get a false sense of security.

``Perhaps in the future, CT scans will become as routine for checking your health as taking your blood pressure,'' the article concludes. ``But we're not there yet.''

COLON CANCER PROTECTION

It's not something people like to talk about. But each year colon cancer kills more men and women than prostate cancer kills men or breast cancer kills women, according to the STOP Colon/Rectal Cancer Foundation (www.coloncancerprevention.org). The good news is that finding and removing colon polyps can prevent up to 90 percent of colon cancers from ever forming, according to the foundation. And when it's found early, before symptoms appear, 90 percent of existing colon cancers can be cured.

The key is early diagnosis -- and that means getting tested. Talk with your doctor about when to begin colon-cancer screening, as family medical history plays an important part in determining when to start. Tests include fecal occult blood tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy,colonoscopy and double-contrast colon X-ray. The Web site these tests in detail.

The STOP Colon/Rectal Cancer Foundation offers a free brochure outlining symptoms, testing procedures, prevention tips and a risk-assessment questionnaire. It's available through the Web site.

WOMEN AT HIGHER RISK FOR THYROID CANCER

Researchers aren't exactly sure why women account for about 75 percent of all cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S. But they're working to find out. ``Some research reports show that thyroid cancers have estrogen receptors,'' says Richard J. Robbins, M.D., chief of the Endocrinology Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. But theconnection needs more study, he emphasizes.

The good news is that thyroid cancer is one of the most curable cancers. Of patients treated at Sloan-Kettering, more than 90 percent go on to lead a full life, Robbins says. If the disease is found early, surgical and medical therapy will result in long-term control or cure in most cases.

The thyroid gland, which is shaped like a butterfly, is located in front of the windpipe at the base of the neck. It produces thyroid hormones that affect the body's metabolic rate, cholesterol levels, fat deposits, the menstrual cycle and heart rate.

Fortunately, most lumps found in the thyroid are benign. But if you do feel a lump, it's a good idea to get it checked out. Other symptoms include developing hoarseness, developing a deepening voice for no reason and trouble swallowing. Thyroid cancer is diagnosed through abiopsy.

Robbins recommends making sure your doctor checks your thyroid for abnormalities (by a simple palpation of the lower neck) during your annual physical.

Kathy Sena is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and columnist specializing in health and fitness topics. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2003, Kathy Sena. Distributed by TMS