Posts Tagged ‘ women’s health ’

Ovarian Cancer Screenings Found Ineffective by Panel

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Standard screening tests for ovarian cancer, including blood tests and ultrasound images of the ovaries, do not lower the death rate from the disease, and in fact yield an alarming number of false positive results, the United States Preventative Services Task Force has found.  The New York Times reports:

“There is no existing method of screening for ovarian cancer that is effective in reducing deaths,” said Dr. Virginia A. Moyer, the chairwoman of the expert panel, the United States Preventive Services Task Force. “In fact, a high percentage of women who undergo screening experience false-positive test results and consequently may be subjected to unnecessary harms, such as major surgery.”

The advice against testing applies only to healthy women with an average risk of ovarian cancer, not to those with suspicious symptoms or those at high risk because they carry certain genetic mutations or have a family history of the disease.

The recommendations are just the latest in a series of challenges to cancer screenings issued by the panel, which has also rejected P.S.A. screening for prostate cancer in men and routine mammograms in women under 50. The task force is a group of 16 experts, appointed by the government but independent, that makes recommendations about screening tests and other efforts to prevent disease. Its advice is based on medical evidence, not cost.

Image: Woman getting blood test, via Shutterstock

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Study: Moms Who Work Full Time Are Healthier

Friday, August 24th, 2012

A new study suggests that moms who work full time are healthier, both physically and mentally, than mothers who work part time, those who stay home with their kids, or those who are unemployed.

Researcher Adrianne Frech of the University of Akron examined data on more than 2,500 women who had babies between 1978 and 1995. Here’s more from UPI:

The study found women who returned full time to the workforce shortly after having children reported better mental and physical health — specifically, greater mobility, more energy and less depression at age 40.

“Work is good for your health, both mentally and physically,” Frech said in a statement. “It gives women a sense of purpose, self-efficacy, control and autonomy. They have a place where they are an expert on something, and they’re paid a wage.”

But Frech told the New York Times blog Motherlode that her study wasn’t designed to provide additional fuel for the so-called Mommy Wars. “I worry that it’s being misinterpreted as researchers saying that stay-at-home-moms made bad choices,” she said.

The mothers in the study who were the least healthy were those who were “persistently unemployed,” who struggled to find employment even if they wanted to work, UPI said.

“Struggling to hold onto a job or being in constant job search mode wears on their health, especially mentally, but also physically,” Frech said.

Image: Working mom with baby via Shutterstock.

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New Recommendations Call for Less Frequent Pap Smears

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Women between ages 21 and 65 should only receive Pap smear tests, which screen for abnormalities in the cervix, every 3-5 years, rather than every year.  This is the message of two separate sets of recommendations released last week by the US Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society.

The new recommendation impacts not only women’s health in general, but parents whose daughters have received the HPV vaccine against some types of cervical cancers.  For one thing, the new recommendations suggest that girls begin receiving Pap tests at age 21, rather than age 18 as was previously the norm.  Girls who received the HPV vaccine still need to receive Pap smears every 3-5 years, though.

The Boston Globe’s health blog has more:

While previous versions of the guidelines urged screenings every two or three years in women over 30, enough evidence has accumulated from recent studies to take a strong stance against yearly screenings in younger adults too. “Screening every three years is equally effective at finding cancers as annual screening, but it may be safer since it results in fewer false positive tests and fewer unnecessary treatments that could be harmful,” said Dr. Wanda Nicholson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, who served on the committee that wrote the task force’s recommendations.

Women whose Pap smears are abnormal often undergo cervical biopsies, which can involve anxiety and discomfort. Repeated biopsies can weaken the cervix, raising the risk of miscarriages and premature births in women who later become pregnant. Reducing screenings from annually to every three years can cut the rate of biopsies in half, according to the American Cancer Society, without increasing the death rate from cervical cancer, which kills about 12,000 American women each year.

A similar rationale was used to determine that women should avoid screening until age 21. Many young women get HPV infections more frequently than the flu and these infections “tend to be transient and clear on their own without treatment,” said Dr. Sarah Feldman, director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Pap Smear Evaluation Center.

Image: Speculum with Pap smear swab, via Shutterstock.

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Abortion Fight Causing Women’s Health Clinic Closures in Texas

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Women’s health clinics in Texas–including those that do not perform abortions–are getting caught up in the political fight to stop funding of abortion providers, leaving many low-income women with dwindling options for routine exams, birth control pills, and breast cancer screenings.

The New York Times reports that the Republican-controlled legislature has cut funding for women’s health in the state by two-thirds:

The cuts, which left many low-income women with inconvenient or costly options, grew out of the effort to eliminate state support for Planned Parenthood. Although the cuts also forced clinics that were not affiliated with the agency to close — and none of them, even the ones run by Planned Parenthood, performed abortions — supporters of the cutbacks said they were motivated by the fight against abortion.

Now, the same sentiment is likely to lead to a shutdown next week of another significant source of reproductive health care: the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which serves 130,000 women with grants to many clinics, including those run by Planned Parenthood. Gov. Rick Perry and Republican lawmakers have said they would forgo the $35 million in federal money that finances the women’s health program in order to keep Planned Parenthood from getting any of it.

Although Texas already bars clinics that take such money from performing abortions, the new law is intended to prevent any state money from benefiting Planned Parenthood. “Planned Parenthoods across the country provide abortions, are affiliated with abortion providers, or refer women to abortion providers,” said Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for Mr. Perry.

Wayne Christian, a Republican state representative said, “I don’t think anybody is against providing health care for women. What we’re opposed to are abortions.” He added, “Planned Parenthood is the main organization that does abortions. So we kind of blend being anti-abortion with being anti-Planned Parenthood.”

Image: Woman in doctor’s waiting room, via Shutterstock.

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FDA: New Birth Control Drugs Increase Blood Clot Risk

Friday, October 28th, 2011

The Food and Drug Administration has released a new study linking several new birth control pills, including the drug Yaz, to an increased risk of dangerous, even life-threatening blood clots.  The Associated Press reports:

A new study released by the Food and Drug Administration reviewed the medical history of more than 800,000 women taking different forms of birth control between 2001 and 2007. On average, woman taking Yaz had significantly higher rates of blood clots than women taking older birth control drugs.

The agency also reports higher complications in women using the Ortho Evra patch from Johnson & Johnson and the Nuvaring vaginal ring from Merck & Co. Inc.

The FDA will hold a public meeting in December to discuss the findings further.


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