Women's Health Base

A look at women, the world and the web

Archive for March, 2009

Silent killer could be screened out

Posted by hannahflynn on March 11, 2009

Late diagnosis of ovarian cancer could be greatly reduced if screening for the disease were implemented, health officials have decided.

More than 200,000 women between the ages of 50 and 74 were screened annually for CA125 (which is a tumour marker) followed by transvaginal ultrasound screening in women at high risk, or annual screening with transvaginal ultrasound for the UK trial.

Screening detected cancer in 90 percent of women with the disease.

Ovarian cancer is known as a ‘silent killer’ as symptoms generally do not appear until the advanced stages.

The decision could affect women who are carriers of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 which increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as the trials found women who underwent genetic screening and cancer screening were more likely to benefit from early diagnosis.

The study does not yet prove women who are screened live longer than those who aren’t, but the trial will continue until 2014 to study this.

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Getting the public to understand relative risk

Posted by hannahflynn on March 11, 2009

The BBC has put up an ace little slide show explaining “how to understand risk in 13 clicks“.

It focuses on numbers of people affected rather than percentages, and all of the examples use women!

Now to see if the BBC actually implement their advice into their own reporting….

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Scientific Integrity Memorandum

Posted by hannahflynn on March 11, 2009

President Barack Obama signed a Scientific Integrity Memorandum on the same day he overturned US policy blocking human embryological stem cell research. You can read the official text here at Seed Magazine.

Otherwise, check out my latest experiment with Wordle.com:

Wordle: Scientific Integrity Memorandum

And the text of remarks of President Barack Obama. You can read the official text on Seed Magazine too:

Wordle: Text of remarks of Barack Obama

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‘Cervical cancer vaccine side-effects’ in Daily Mail

Posted by hannahflynn on March 9, 2009

The Daily Mail reported 1,300 girls had experienced adverse side-effects after receiving the cervical cancer vaccine “with 2,891 different adverse effects noted”.

The Mail does mention these figures have been obtained from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), from reports by doctors and has noted the responses from three separate parties: Government ‘health experts’, Jab (a vaccine support group) and Jo Trust (a cervical cancer awareness and support charity). All have stated the risks are minimal and are to be expected when 700,000 women have been vaccinated.

While some of the adverse affects noted are to be expected from a vaccination programme, pain and swelling at injection site and in some cases anaphalyxis, The Mail’s reporting elsewhere in the article is a classic example of the issues raised when correlation is used to imply causation.

It would be hard to find a link between a long-term mental illness, anorexia, and a vaccine but that is what is implied by The Mail.

Similarly, Bell’s Palsey, Guillain-Barré syndrome and an epileptic fit are all serious conditions, but when one person out of 700,000 has reported this occurring after receiving the jab, the levels of significance are pretty much incalculable.

No variables in the individual’s concerned are noted, and nor is the recent change in the way adverse reactions to drugs are recorded.

The NHS recently reported a high uptake in its Yellow Card scheme, which improved to make it easier for patients to report any concerns they have with their medications, over the past couple of years. It is recommended: “Even if you are not sure whether a medicine that you are taking is causing other symptoms, it is best to report it”. These are recorded by the MHRA.

The effects of reporting claims of this seriousness without providing context are evident in the comments section. Not available during the last vaccine scare (MMR) caused by bad reporting in the media, the general public’s response to these stories is now indisputable.

Stephanie, UK states:

“”Ministers say it will ultimately save 700 lives a year.”

That would be 0.1% of the 700,000 girls vaccinated so far, in percentage terms lives saved will decrease as more are vaccinated.

“But Government health experts insisted the Cervarix vaccine was safe and that the total of 1,340 reports was to be expected, given that more than 700,000 girls were vaccinated last year.”

0.19% of the 700,000 girls vaccinated experienced adverse side effects, almost twice the percentage of the ‘obvious benefit’.”

She then asks, “Why is it necessary to vaccinate all young girls to save 700 lives per year?”

When will the media bother to answer this question?

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Ethnic minorities suffer more complications during pregnancy

Posted by hannahflynn on March 7, 2009

Researchers can not agree on the causes of the finding that black Afro-Caribbean and Pakistani women suffer more complications during pregnancy than their white British peers.

Non-white women in the UK are 50 percent more likely to suffer from serious complications including eclampsia, pulmonary embolism and hysterectomy, it was reported in the British Medical Journal*. This  reflects findings in the US, Australia and the Netherlands

However, using ethnicity to group women in a study was branded a blunt instrument by Professor Wendy Pollock from the University of Melbourne in her editorial. She blames the use of ethnicity as a marker for the unresolved outcome of the study. It is unclear if the findings are due to differences in socio-economic status, or genetic predisposition to medical conditions which may affect pregnancy.

Reasons put forward for the findings include the fact that women in ethnic minority groups discover their pregnancies later and therefore access care later.

Women from these groups also report feeling they were not being treated with respect or spoken to in a way they understood.

*BMJ-British Medical Journal (2009, March 3). UK Black Women Have Double The Risk Of Pregnancy Complications.

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HIV microbicide hope

Posted by hannahflynn on March 7, 2009

In the face of a series of failed HIV vaccine trials the news of a microbicide which has been found to prevent HIV infection has been welcomed by researchers in the field.

Though current trails have only been completed in maquac monkeys, researchers reporting in Natureare hopeful the microbicide will prove effective in humans.

The news comes in the wake of reports that gonorrhea is becoming dangerously anti-biotic resistant, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

This urgently increases the need for effective microbicides and developing biofilms, which can be applied prior to intercourse.

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