Tuesday, November 11, 2014

HPV and Cervical Cancer

A study was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) that correlated HPV vaccination rates with the incidence of cervical cancer.  HPV (human papilloma virus) is the almost sole cause of cervical cancer.  HPV is transmitted primarily by sexual contact.  It is extremely common with some estimates running as high as 80% infection rates within the population.  Women develop cervical cancer as the primary symptom.  Men are asymptomatic and act only as carriers (as far as current medical knowledge is aware.)  There is a vaccine available for HPV that is recommended for inclusion in the vaccination regimen of childhood and teenagers.  There have been a number of complications from the vaccine, including some deaths.  So there are these facts to keep in front of us:

  • HPV is a sexually transmitted disease
  • HPV is responsible for causing cervical cancer
  • Having HPV does not automatically lead to cervical cancer
  • The highest incidence rates for cervical cancer are ages 25-50 years old
  • Men only carry HPV 
  • HPV may not manifest as cervical cancer for decades after exposure

The researchers found in this study that states with the highest incidence of cervical cancer had the lowest HPV vaccination rates, and states with lowest incidence of cervical cancer had highest rates of HPV vaccination.  Superficially, the quick interpretation of this finding is that HPV vaccination prevents cervical cancer.  If you're pro-vaccination, you make a celebratory leap and roll up your sleeve for the shot.  But wait a second.  While there is this finding, I would call it coincidental at this stage.  The HPV vaccine has  been on the market for, at best, seven years.  This really leaves not enough time for there to be any adequate or accurate correlations to be made between vaccines and incidence rates when the disease often takes many years, even decades, to manifest.

Those of you who know me know I'm not the biggest supporter or fan of vaccines in general.  I've gotten vaccinations from time to time.  I was raised in the "time of glowing miracles of new vaccines" - small pox, polio, etc.  I stood in line in my school cafeteria waiting for my shots and polio sugar cube.  Clearly diseases can be avoided through the use of vaccines.  There is something real about the "herd immunity" given through vaccinations.  For the individual however, the potential for side effects and living with health hazards brought by the vaccinations themselves do have to be weighed.  Individuals should still have the right to choose "their poison" so to speak.  There has been a tremendous swing in society toward an almost universal mandate to vaccinate.  My patients tell stories, and I have experienced myself, extreme hostility from pro-vaccination people for not wanting me or my family vaccinated.  If public health officials could guarantee with 100% certainty you won't react poorly to a vaccine, then they would have the responsibility to mandate 100% vaccination.  But, they can't make that guarantee.  The federal government has even waived our legal option to sue a pharmaceutical company for damages from a poor vaccine outcome.  Everyone knows and every medical professional MUST admit and inform you that there are dangers from injecting foreign immunological products into your body.  We should be allowed to choose our health risks for ourselves, and our children!

HPV vaccines do have some serious problems in a small percentage of the population receiving them.  Cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted disease.  It IS a serious disease and WILL kill you if you ignore it.  Celibate individuals should not be forced into vaccinations.  There are effective ways to prevent or deal with cervical cancer without the vaccine.  Getting a PAP smear every year is 100% safe and very effective at catching cellular changes early.  These changes can be effectively addressed through simple in-office gynecological procedures.  I use vitamin A suppositories in the vagina, which appears to effectively prevent HPV from triggering its cellular mutations.  There are other natural anti-viral protocols that also address cervical health.  So, pick your poison.  Not every woman wants to get a PAP smear, or endure office procedures inter-vaginally.  If you don't want to do that and you're sexually active, then get the vaccination!  Or go the other way I've just laid out and skip the vaccination.  Take charge of your health and make the choice that fits best for you without being unduly influenced by the pro-vaccination researchers' hype jobs, which is what I think this "study" is trying to accomplish.    


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Improving Emotional Hygiene

"Compassion suits our physical condition, whereas anger, fear and distrust are harmful to our well-being. Therefore, just as we learn the importance of physical hygiene to physical health, to ensure healthy minds, we need to learn some kind of emotional hygiene." -- Facebook Post from Dalai Lama, Nov. 6, 2014

The Dalai Lama's Facebook post resonated so deeply with my spirit that I decided to share it here too.  As a physician I admit to being frequently over-focused on physical health.  Most people come through my door expecting a doctor to heal what is ailing them physically.  I typically oblige with suggested changes to their health practices (hygiene) concerning diet/nutrition and physical exercise.  Many conditions, however, are direct issues of the heart, the soul, or the emotions.  Many more conditions include these other planes of being in the cause of physical imbalance.  His post left me pondering the need we all have for attentiveness to our "emotional hygiene."  The more stressed, anxious and depressed we are the more attentiveness we should be applying.  Here are some of the daily practices I work to include in my efforts keep my mind healthier.  If you have some that you find helpful -PLEASE - share them through the comments!!

Smile:  There is pretty strong evidence that smiling -- even if it has to be forced -- will improve your mood.  Try it and see.  One book I read even suggested holding a pencil across your mouth as a way to force a smile.  When you exercise your smile muscles a signal gets sent to your brain to lighten up.  You know you are smiling enough when you find your facial muscles hurting later.  "Smile until it hurts."

Read Scripture:  Many of the Apostle Paul's letters (Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, etc.) admonish us to practice mercy, humility, gentleness, kindness, patience, generosity, etc.  Mining these books for these passages and committing them to memory is a way to impress their importance upon your mind.  When your mind prioritizes these attitudinal adjustments, your behavior (and your life) will change too.

Forgive: One of the largest keys to having a healthy mind is letting go of wrongs and mistakes of the past - be they yours or someone else's.  Carrying the toxic sludge of emotional baggage of resentment, guilt, and revenge around with you is a sure fired way to stay in a constant state of dank misery, oppression, and adrenal stress.

Encourage:  Instead of looking for what's wrong, attempt always to spotlight what is right.  Even in the worst moments goodness glimmers.  Habitual searching for what is good, brave, improving, and hopeful smooths out an otherwise very rough and rocky trek over life's journey.  We do have a huge impact on others.  Our words of encouragement to them will bounce back to us and lighten our day too.

Pray/Meditate: When I talk about prayer/meditation, I am talking more about quiet listening and seeking understanding than ticking off all the needs and wants I have.  While there is certainly room in God's life for the complaints, as well as the intercessions for others (as the Psalmist proves!), I think the greater dose of emotional hygiene is found resting in hopeful silence and watching for the illuminating insights that can flow from it.  
Journal: One of the best ways to self-process is to write them down.  This allows you to hear yourself.  This allows you to go back after you're done and see patterns and potential problems that you can reasonably address.  Journaling works well with prayer and meditation.  Keep a journal nearby and if a pesky or irritating thought keeps interrupting your quiet time, just write it down.  This will often release that thought's grip on your contemplation.

These are six acts of emotional hygiene I work at daily.  Do you have others?  Again, share them please in the comments.