Cervical Cancer Warning, Preemie Births Decline & Other News

CDC: Get Screened for Cervical Cancer

Getting screened for cervical cancer could save your life. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning to about 8 million women — ages 21 to 65 — who have not been screened for cervical cancer in the last five years. The warning was based on a Vital Signs study published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a CDC journal.   

The data shows that more than 50 percent of new cases of cervical cancer occur among those who never or rarely get screened. During the current year, doctors will diagnose about 12,360 new cases of invasive cervical cancer, with about 4,000 women dying from cervical cancer in 2014, according to the American Cancer Society.

Screening for cervical cancer includes two tests:

  • The Pap test — also known as the Pap smear — is used to detect signs of precancer cells, which are changes in the cervix that could develop into cervical cancer if not correctly treated.
  • The HPV test screens for a virus called human papillomavirus.human papillomavirus That virus can cause cells in the cervix to change.
  • “We must increase our efforts to make sure that all women understand the importance of getting screened for cervical cancer. No woman should die from cervical cancer,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Ileana Arias, Ph.D.

    In the same report, the CDC also stressed the value of the HPV vaccine, as an important step to prevent cervical cancer and the deaths linked to that form of cancer. Unfortunately, the HPV vaccination is underused, the CDC reports.

    Both topics—cervical cancer and HPV—have been covered on this blog:

  •   Watch Now: Children After Cervical Cancer
  •   HPV in Women
  •  HPV Vaccines – Cancer Prevention for Girls and Boys
  • —Sharon Harvey Rosenberg

    Premature Birth Rate Dips to 17-Year Low

    The numbers of babies born prematurely or too early — known as the premature birth rate — has declined in the U. S. to the lowest level in 17 years, according to the March of Dimes’ annual Premature Birth Report Card.

    This is the seventh consecutive year that the premature birth rate has declined. The rate fell to 11.4 percent in 2013. More than 450,000 babies were born premature in 2013, compared to 542,893 in 2006, when the rate was at its highest.

    Babies are considered preterm if they are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. “Preemies” can face serious health issues, including vision or hearing loss, anemia, infections and breathing problems.

    Many factors are involved in the likelihood of delivering prematurely, including genetics and family history, preexisting medical conditions, obesity and whether a woman has delivered prematurely before.

    Reasons for the decline in the premature birth rate include efforts to reduce elective cesarean sections (those that are not medically necessary) before 39 weeks of pregnancy, improved access to maternity care and a reduction in smoking among women, the March of Dimes said.

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) set a public health goal for the nation’s preterm birth rate — 11.4 percent by the year 2020. The U.S. has met this goal seven years early. However, the U.S. premature birth rate is still higher than that of most developed nations, says the March of Dimes.

    Also read:

  • A Mother’s Miracle
  • Born Before Their Time
  • Big Advances for Tiniest Patients
  • —John Fernandez

    Pump Up Vitamin D to Lower Asthma Attacks

    Healthy levels of vitamin D in the body are needed to develop and maintain strong bones, a resilient immune system and lower the risk of certain conditions, such as heart disease and depression.

    Now, people with asthma have a reason to keep their vitamin D in check.

    Researchers in Israel studied vitamin D blood levels in 308,000 people.  Of the 21,237 people in that group who were previously diagnosed with asthma, insufficient levels of vitamin D were associated with more asthma attacks, the study found.

    In addition, the asthma attacks in this group were more severe when their vitamin D levels were lower than normal, according to the study that appeared last month in Allergy, a European medical journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  The overall conclusion of the research study: raising vitamin D levels may help control flare-ups in people with asthma.

    “If a patient has had good treatment for asthma and is still not controlled, he or she should be checked for vitamin D levels before adding on more medications,” said Dr. Ronit Confino-Cohen, the study’s lead author and a senior lecturer at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, Israel. “Maybe supplementation would do the job.”

    Other stories about vitamin D that have published on this blog include:

  • ‘D’-ficient
  • Eat Your Vitamins
  • Start Now to Prevent Future Fractures
  • Kids’ Fractures: Can You Catch a Break?

    —Tanya Walton

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