After a year and a half of marriage, Lucy had her first gynecologic exam, including a Pap smear. The gynecologist found something that worries her and recommended that Lucy undergo a procedure called a COLPOSCOPY. The doctor found a lesion on the cervix and performed a biopsy, which is the removal of a sample of the damaged tissue for diagnosis.
“Two weeks later, “comments Lucy, “the doctor had my husband and me come in for the results. She told us that the lesion was due to an infection with human papillomavirus and that it was in an advanced stage. She explained that the risk of the infection becoming cervical cancer and the need to begin treatment immediately.
“Upon hearing the diagnosis, I began to cry. It was a shock to both my husband and me. A small surgery was scheduled for the following day. That afternoon I felt very sad and worried. I asked myself, ‘Why me?’”
Having read that the virus is sexually transmitted, Lucy could not understand how she had been infected. Both she and her husband have always respected the Bible’s high moral principles.
A COMMON INFECTION
The fact is, millions of women in the world are infected with human papillomavirus [HPV] –considered the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world.
According to the World Health Organization [WHO], this infection is the primary risk factor in the development of cervical cancer. The cervix, or neck of the uterus, is the lower, narrow part between the vagina and the uterus, or womb, of a woman.
Many hundreds of thousands of cases of HPV are diagnosed in the world annually, and each year many thousands of women die from cervical cancer, which is a consequence of the infection. HPV is a major cause of death from cancer in women in developing countries. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common type of uterine cancer.
No wonder WHO calls HPV “a global public health problem”! What else should we know about this virus?
Human pappillomavirus is responsible for warts in both men and women, including genital warts, called CONDYLOMA ACUMINATA. These are generally benign, or noncancerous. Although there are over hundred types of HPV, only a few can be carcinogenic, that is cancerous.
It is only the persistent infection with certain types of HPV that causes cervical cancer. On the other hand, most HPV infections disappear spontaneously, being overcome by the body’s immune system.
Principally at risk are women who are sexually active early in life, who have multiple male sexual partners, or who are having intercourse with a male partner who has had multiple sexual partners. It is often a man with no outward symptoms who transmits the HPV infection to his mate.
However, in some cases women who lead morally clean lives or perhaps have never engaged in sexual relations contract the infection. For example, some recent studies indicate that the virus can be transmitted at birth from a mother to her child or that a person may be infected by a source other than the mother. The disease can become evident even many years after the person has been infected.
HOW TO DETERMINE INFECTION
If you are a woman, you may be asking yourself, ‘How can I know I am infested with HPV? This is an important question because the disease generally does not cause symptoms. Thus, as in Lucy’s case mentioned at the outset, the fundamental step is to have a cytological exam of the cervix, called a PAP smear, or PAPANICOLAOU smear.
Named after the Greek physician George N. Papanicolao, who designed the method of staining smears of the cells for observation.
To do the test, a clinician uses a scraper or a brush to take a small sample of the cells of the cervix and sends the cells to a laboratory. The test can reveal if there is infection, inflammation, or abnormal cells. It is reported that PAP smears have reduced cervical cancer mortality and morbidity rates.
WHO claims: “Early detection of precancerous lesions through cytological screening has been and, most probably, will remain for quite some time the mainstay for global control of the disease.” If the results of this test are unsatisfactory, a colposcopy is done using an apparatus with a magnifying lens to observe the affected area.
By this means it can be determined if there is a lesion. If there is, a biopsy is taken, and treatment is started.
Nowadays, even more sophisticated laboratory tests can be done. These determine with much greater certainty the presence of disease. Women should have regular Pap smears, they should not use tobacco, and they should eat a healthful diet. Such a diet would be rich in vegetables, fruit, and cereals. Some studies have suggested that consumption of carotenes, vitamins A, C, and E, and folic acid may reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
ATHLETIC WOMEN SYNDROME
Women who regularly do excessive hard physical workout could be at risk of developing osteoporosis, eating disorders, and amenorrhea –the interruption of the menstrual cycle, reported the Brazilian newspaper Folha.
Turibio Leite de Barros Neto, coordinator of the center of Physical and Sports Medicine at the University of Sao Paulo, said: “Ideally, a woman should have 10 percent more body fat than a man. In other words, she should not have less than 15 percent body fat.”
If a woman has less fat than that amount, her body may have difficulty producing the hormones needed to regulate her monthly cycle and she could limit the calcium she accumulate in her bones, leading to osteoporosis, said Folha.
THE SUN AND PREGNANT WOMEN
A study of vitamin D levels in pregnant women has found an alarming number are dangerously deficient, posing a risk to their unborn babies,” reports the Sun-Herald newspaper of Australia. Babies develop bowed legs, suffer fits, and may develop the bone disease known as rickets.
A study of 1,000 pregnant women, conducted at St. George Hospital in Sydney, found that “one in 10 fair-skinned women were deficient in vitamin D.” The solution to this problem seems simple. Humans produce about 90 percent of their vitamin D requirement by exposing their skin to mild sunshine a day or about one hour a week to get adequate levels of vitamin D,” says the paper.
Studies indicate that 15 to 20 percent of all diagnosed pregnancies end in miscarriage, says The World Book Encyclopedia. But the risk of marriage is highest during the first two weeks following conception [fertilization], a time at which most women do not know they are pregnant.
Another reference states that over 80 percent of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, of which at least half are thought to be caused by defects in the chromosomes of the fetus. These defects are not the result of similar defects in the chromosomes of the mother or father.
Other causes of miscarriage may stem from the mother’s health. Medical authorities point to hormonal and immune system disorders, infections, and abnormalities in the cervix or uterus of the mother. Chronic diseases such as diabetes [if poorly controlled] and high blood pressure may also be factors.
According to experts, miscarriage is not necessarily caused by exercising, lifting heavy objects or having sexual relations. It is unlikely that a fall, a minor blow, or a sudden fright will cause miscarriage. One reference says; the fetus is unlikely to be harmed by an injury unless the injury is serious enough to threaten your own life.
Cancer is overwhelmingly caused by where you are, what you do, and what happens to you in life, rather than by what you are, a study of almost 90,000 twins has shown,” reports London’s newspaper The Guardian.
Dr. Paul Lichtenstein of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute led the research team for his study. He says: “Environmental factors are more important than gene factors.” Scientists believe that smoking causes about 35 percent of cancers, while another 30 percent appears to be related to diet.
Genetic factors play a part in prostate, colorectal, and breast cancer, but Dr. Tim Key of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in Oxford, England, advises: “Even if you have….. a family history [of cancer] what you do with your life is much more important. You should not smoke; you should care of your diet. Those things do make a difference.