Women's Health Base

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Posts Tagged ‘cervical cancer’

10 reasons you should have the HPV vaccine

Posted by hannahflynn on October 1, 2009

Following the tragic death of a fourteen year-old girl just two hours after receiving the HPV vaccine as part of the UK’s policy to vaccinate all girls under 18, the media has been awash with confused stories regarding the safety of the jab.

The first stages of the postmortem showed she had an underlying health problem, most likely a heart defect which would commonly present for the first time at this age, which was the cause of her sudden death.

However, when the story broke, before the first results from the postmortem became available the media insinuated the HPV vaccine may have caused in her death. 

It is important we do not have a vaccination scare on the scale of the MMR, and young girls (and perhaps their families) are comfortable receiving this potentially life saving jab.

Therefore, here are ten reasons you should have the HPV vaccine:

1. It protects against the two types of HPV which cause 70% of cervical cancers.

2. Women have, on average, a 1.6% chance of developing cervical cancer in their life time; there is less than a 1 in a million chance of severe anaphylaxis due to this vaccine (3).

3. Cervical cancer kills 1,000 women every year in the UK. It is thought the vaccination programme could save 400 of them.

4. The risks are low. All vaccines carry risk, but the HPV vaccine has shown few contraindications. The most common side effect is ‘sore arm’.

5. 50% of sexually active women contract HPV by the time they are 30 .

6. Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise which can increase your susceptibility to HPV and increase your risk of cervical cancer up to six times (1). For example, women who also have genital herpes are more likely to get more invasive forms of cervical cancer (2).

7. Cancer is a killer, but not only that. Treatment for cervical cancer can include surgery and chemotherapy which can leave you infertile, or with difficulty conceiving. This has happened to many women in their twenties.

8. We need as many people as possible to be vaccinated in order to reduce the prevalence of HPV in the population. Normally, vaccination programmes require 80% of the whole population (men included) to be vaccinated in order to eliminate a disease.

9. Promiscuity alone does not cause cervical cancer, as one third of women with only one sexual partner contract HPV within one year. As previously mentioned, 50% of women have been exposed to HPV by the time they are 30.

10. The NHS (and many other health authorities) have emphasised the importance of, and have promised to continue cervical screening. But there is no reason to not use belt and braces girls!

1. P Koskela, T Anttila, T Bjørge, A Brunsvig. (2000). Chlamydia trachomatis infection as a risk factor for invasive cervical cancer.International journal of cancer.
2. 2003. Cervical cancer risk rises if women with HPV also have herpes infection. International Family Planning Perspectives
3.  D. Cooper, (2007). Determinants of sexual activity and its relation to cervical cancer risk among South African Women. BMC Public Health

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Stonewall poster campaign highlights lesbian health issues

Posted by hannahflynn on September 16, 2009

Gay rights group Stonewall has launched a new poster campaign with the Department of Health encouraging lesbian and bisexual women to take better care of themselves.

The move follows the results of ‘Prescription for Change’, the first major survey ever conducted into lesbian and bisexual women’s health in Britain, which has revealed half of the UK’s 1.8 million lesbians report a recent negative NHS experience. The Stonewall research used over 6,000 lesbian and bisexual women in the study.

Stonewall has developed the slogan ‘Love your inner lesbian’ which is going to accompany the campaign. The research, released last year, found deeply disturbing levels of self-harm, substance abuse and exclusion from routine testing for cervical cancer.

The survey also found lesbian and bisexual women are reluctant to be honest about their sexual orientation when talking to doctors. The poster campaign which will hit healthcare centres and clinics soon, aims to encourage women to talk frankly to their doctors about their healthcare needs.A series of posters is now been available depicting the slogan, as well as key statistics from the report – including smear testing, lesbian parenting, mental health issues and drink and drug habits.

The lack of attendance to cervical screening by lesbian and bisexual women is worrying considering the increasing trend for sexually transmitted diseases which can lead to the development of abnormalities on the cervix which can lead to cancer. However, 30% of cervical cancers  occur without pre-exposure to HPV; a cancer causing virus, meaning groups which are not in a high risk group for HPV, Chlamydia and gonorrohea i.e lesbian women, are still at risk of developing the disease. The report suggested their is an increased cost in treating lesbian and bisexual women who usually present with a disease later than their heterosexual peers.

One of the recommendations of the report is to make lesbian health issues more visible so women are more comfortable discussing them with a doctor.

Source: Utalkmarketing.com

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Changes to cervical cancer surgery

Posted by hannahflynn on June 2, 2009

Changes to the surgical methods used to treat early stage cervical cancer could increase survival rates by up to 20 percent, according to new research published in The Lancet.

German researchers have found a more targeted approach which involves only removing tissue in the areas where tumor is most likely to spread, is more effective at treating cervical cancer than radical hysterectomy, which is the traditional tttreatment.

By removing a more defined, section which includes the fallopian tubes, uterus, and certain parts of the vagina, radiotherapy can also be avoided.

The technique is called mesometrial resection (TMMR), and the study practised the method on 212 patients. In high risk patients the recurrence rate was only 5 percent compared to 28 percent for patients who had received traditional surgery.

The surgery also avoids a lot of potential nerve damage which is a problem experienced by a large number of women who undergo hysterectomy.

Cancer UK agree the technique shows potential and are hoping larger trials will start so the treatment can be offered to more patients.

The news comes not long after results showing the removal of ovaries during hysterectomy had no positive effect on survival rates in women(1).

1.Parker WH, Broder MS, Chang E et al. Ovarian conservation at the time of hysterectomy and long-term health outcomes in the Nurses’ Health Study. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2009;113:1027-37.

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Cervical smears needed for over 50s

Posted by hannahflynn on May 9, 2009

Recently the minimum age for smears has been the cause of much debate, but new evidence suggests the maximum should be considered too.

The study by the Institute of Cancer Researchshowed two thirds of women screened between the ages of 50 and 64 and found to have serious abnormalities, had two previous negative tests in their 40s. This shows cancer cases could be missed if screening was stopped at 50.

Published in the British Journal of Cancer the results were drawn from over 2 million women after questions were raised over the cost effectiveness of screening at this age. The possibility of false positive results for abnormalities was also questioned.

Though it was found the risk of developing cervical cancer did decrease with age, the rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the over 40s could change this. This is as exposure to HPV or other STIs can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.

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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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Americans believe HPV vaccine doubles promiscuity

Posted by hannahflynn on December 29, 2008

The majority of American adults fear the HPV vaccine will double adolescent sexual activity.

This fear may lead them to be less willing to seek out the HPV vaccine for their daughters according to a team based at Yale, this week.

Researchers at Yale School of Public Health also found the cost of the vaccine would have to be significantly reduced to increase public uptake of the vaccine, after applying ‘game theory’ to a number of factors that may discourage people from taking part in a vaccination programme.

Here in the UK fears of the vaccine promoting promiscuity have not been as wide-spread, Cancer Research UK found 75 percent of mothers were in favour of vaccinating their daughters. Still, lets not forget St Monica’s Roman Catholic High School in Bury, which refuses to let its pupils receive the HPV vaccine on its premises. (The Nursing Times paper on it is here).

There are calls for the HPV vaccine to be mandated however, as the optimum age for vaccination is between 11 and 13 years, while children are still under parental control.

The Lancet reported in 2005 that “Parental consent ought to be waived for HPV vaccination as it is for other sexually transmitted infection-related health care.”

In a country where the children under the age of 16 have been able to obtain birth control as well as STI prevention without parental consent for some time now, we must ask: why should the HPV vaccine be any different?

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Cervical Cancer NHS Website Up

Posted by hannahflynn on November 20, 2008

A website put up by the NHS to promote cervical screening to young women has received strong criticism from feminist groups.

Feminist community blog The F Word has criticised the use of men on the site in its post entitled ‘Apparently men have to be Cervix Savvy’.

In a four point list the blogger suggests the NHS are patronising women by getting men to tell them about the benefits of getting screened.  

The comments left also criticise the website, on one count for suggesting that cervical smears should be part of a woman’s beauty regime.  

Just over two weeks ago the NHS announced it was to inject £250,000 in to a campaign to increase the number of women turning up for their cervical smears after numbers dropped to an all-time low this year.

The numbers were never good and since the minimum age was raised in England it has got worse.

A row broke out over the minimum age earlier this year with some consultants stating that if all women turned up at 25 there would be no cause for worry, but as they didn’t the minimum age for smears should be reviewed.

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