Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Ovarian Cancer – The Smear Test Won’t Tell You Much

February 28, 2010

According to an article published by the UK Press Association, a UK study revealed that one in three women mistakenly believe that a smear test can diagnose ovarian cancer. The test is also known as Papanicolaou test, Pap smear, Pap test, or cervical smear.

[The smear test] is a screening test used in gynecology to detect premalignant and malignant (cancerous) processes in the ectocervix. … In taking a Pap smear, a tool is used to gather cells from the outer opening of the cervix (Latin for “neck”) of the uterus and the endocervix. The cells are examined under a microscope to look for abnormalities. The test aims to detect potentially pre-cancerous changes (called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) or cervical dysplasia), which are usually caused by sexually transmitted human papillomaviruses (HPVs). The test remains an effective, widely used method for early detection of pre-cancer and cervical cancer. The test may also detect infections and abnormalities in the endocervix and endometrium.

While the smear test is customarily used to diagnose cervical cancer, it is not very helpful in diagnosing ovarian cancer. Cervical cancer and ovarian cancer are distinct medical conditions with distinct symptoms. Cervical cancer refers to malignant tissue developing in the cervix – the organ, which connects the uterus and the vagina. Last year, there were about 4,070 deaths associates with cervical cancer. The smear test is effective in diagnosing cervical cancer.

Ovarian cancer refers to malignant tissue in one or both of the ovaries. Last year, there were about 14,600 deaths associated with ovarian cancer – a much higher mortality rate when compared to that of cervical cancer. Symptoms of ovarian cancer include, but are not limited to : abdominal pressure, abdominal distention, urinary urgency, abdominal pain and discomfort, indigestion, constipation, changes in menstruation, lethargy, and pain during intercourse.

According to the article,

Almost one in three women (29%) mistakenly believe a smear test will pick up signs of ovarian cancer. …  Only 4% are confident they could spot symptoms of the disease themselves and many believe it is less common than cervical cancer. … The poll of more than 1,000 women found that twice as many (66%) had been given information about cervical cancer as those who had details on ovarian cancer (33%). Of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, more than half (56%) did not know anything about the disease beforehand.

These numbers reveal a dangerous misconception about ovarian cancer. Many more women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer than cervical cancer. Moreover, many more women die as a result of ovarian cancer than as a result of cervical cancer. Early diagnosis is key in both instances. In this regard, being knowledgeable about these medical conditions can be a matter of life and death. Be mindful that a smear test is not helpful in diagnosing ovarian cancer.

Contributing author: Jon Stefanuca

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New BPA Research – Is Your Plastic Water Bottle Toxic?

February 20, 2010

According to an article published in WebMD Health News, two recent studies suggest that the plastic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is not toxic to the brain and that it does not inhibit the development of the human reproductive system. One of the studies was funded by the plastics industry. Both studies were originally published in Toxicological Sciences.

BPA is an organic chemical compound, which is used as an additive or building block in several plastics. Its primary purpose is to harden plastic. For this reason, BPA is found in a wide variety of consumer products such as plastic bottles, cups, and even baby milk bottles.

“Some experts are concerned that exposure to BPA and its weak estrogen-like effects, especially during critical periods of development, may be linked to a range of health hazards, including behavioral effects, reproductive problems, cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.”

The two studies in question were designed to specifically study the impact of BPA on the brain and the reproductive system. Both studies used animal models.  The study that focused on neurotoxicity found that female rats and their litters did not develop neurological defects from exposure to BPA.  The study that focused on BPA’s impact on the reproductive system found that rats exposed to low doses of BPA in utero and throughout the breastfeeding period maintaind healthy reproductive systems.

Notwithstanding these new findings, many remain concerned about the toxicity of BPA. Even the FDA reversed its position regarding the safety of BPA in January 2010 and called for additional research on the subject. Previous studies appear to suggest that BPA is toxic. For example, in an article published in Reproductive Toxicology in 2007, 38 experts agreed that average levels of BPA in humans are above those that appear to cause harm in animals.  In 2009, an article publushed in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, sumarized past BPA research and concluded that:

“The potential for BPA to influence body weight is suggested by in vitro studies demonstrating effects of BPA on adipocyte differentiation, lipid accumulation, glucose transport and adiponectin secretion. Data from in vivo studies have revealed dose-dependent and sex dependent effects on body weight in rodents exposed perinatally to BPA. The mechanisms through which perinatal BPA exposure acts to exert persistent effects on body weight and adiposity remain to be determined.”

Another study published in the Journal of American Medical Association specifically addressed the impact of BPA on humans.  The study concluded that there was a strong positive correlation between the amount of  BPA in a person’s urine and the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and enzyme abnormalities.  These are just a few of the many research studies suggesting a link between BPA and varous medical complications.

Contributing Author:  Jon Stefanuca