MEDICAL MAILBOX Avoiding Hepatitis I was flying in a chartered plane the other day in which the onlymagazine rack on board was stocked with Playboy-type magazines. (Isurmised that the customary clientele on this plane was maleexecutives.) As I sorted through the stack looking for something toread, a Penthouse with George Burns and Vanessa Williams on the coverfell out, and I confess–I peeked at those now infamous pictures. My reaction is that the medical profession needs to be doing a muchbetter job of educating our young people who experiment with deviantmethods of sexual gratification. Anything that involves oral-analcontact is inviting exposure to the hepatitis virus. For example,homosexual men have far more hepatitis than other groups in our societyand should certainly be vaccinated against hepatitis B if they have notalready been. Do our young people, who are led to believe by the liberal pressthat “anything goes’ in sexual practices, know that they areinviting a host of health disasters? Are they made aware of the threatsto health posed by sex acts as portrayed by Vanessa Williams and herfemale partner? Do most young people know about the risk of contractinga whole catalog of sexually transmitted diseases including hepatitis B?Do they know of the need to vaccinate against this disease should theyelect to follow these practices? And how about those who know about theshots but cannot afford the $100 to get them? Of the sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis B poses the mostserious health hazard to society. It is passed from victims to theuninfected by deviant sexual relations, through needles shared byillicit drug users and through blood donated by carriers.
Thus,hepatitis is spread beyond the homosexual and drug-user circles toinnocent members of society. Not only a personal but a community and aworld-wide health problem results. Hepatitis B is responsible for mostcases of liver cancer, which on a world-wide basis kills more peoplethen any other single form of cancer. It appears that those getting hepatitis B may never fully recover.Approximately 1 to 3 percent of those contracting acute hepatitis go onto develop fulminant hepatitis and die. A more benign disease may gointo relative remission, but it often does not go away entirely. From 5to 10 percent of hepatitis-B victims become chronic carriers and caninfect others for the rest of their lives.
A vaccine to prevent hepatitis B is available. It is ratherexpensive, but it is strongly urged for members of those groups indanger of developing the disease. A whole generation is in need of an education program warning ofthe dangers of the “new’ sexually transmitted diseases. Mostof these diseases are incurable, which makes them more insidious thanother venereal diseases. Perhaps it’s time for society to take astand against the portrayal of sexual practices that pose health threatsto the rest of society.
A growing number of persons, predominantly women, are developingliver failure with no identifiable cause. These persons are diagnosedas having primary biliary cirrhosis or PBC. (See page 58.) Since thecause is not yet recognized, more research is urgently needed. Drugssuch as transquilizers and birth-control pills have been suspected. Mild Myasthenia Gravis Dear Dr. SerVaas: This is in response to the letter from Lois Harvey.
For now,forget the cats! She is wondering if her daughter’s muscularweakness could be an allergy to cats. I too am hypoglycemic. I, too,had some benefit from the diet, but was still plagued with the muscularweakness and fatigue until, mercifully, a doctor I went to about thehypoglycemia spotted the real cause and sent me to a doctor who is aspecialist in myasthenia. (The Post published an excellent article onthe subject last month, except that the mild form was not mentioned.)To make a long story short, after years of being branded as neurotic anddepressed, I was diagnosed correctly as having the mild form ofmyasthenia gravis. She will very likely have a difficult time findingsomeone who will take her seriously and do the Tensilon test, but sheshould not stop until she does.
One of my friends who suggested it toher doctor was told she could not have that. She wasn’t richenough! Well, I’m nowhere nearly as rich as Onassis either, but Ihave it. Although there is no connection between the two, myspecialist, who has studied the disease for around 45 years, says thetwo diseases are often found in the same patient. She should try to find a specialist in myasthenia, and willprobably have to go to a large clinic. Next to that, a neurologistwould probably be best. I’ll gladly correspond with the ladies if I can be of help. Mildred N. McAnally Bourbonnais, Illinois Sun Lovers “Fry Now, Pay Later’ is the headline for a slick ad witha glamorous bathing beauty sunning herself to a warm bronze in thetropical sun.
The ad, commissioned by the American Cancer Society, isgreat but it probably won’t discourage sun lovers. If youcan’t resist the sun spots in the wintertime, be informed aboutcover-up protection. Sun tan screens, dry-skin lotions and even make-uphelp protect the skin against the ravages of the sun’s rays.
Weara hat! Unsuspected Cancer Dear Dr. SerVaas: My husband, while under the care of a physician for adult-onsetdiabetes (age 62), became ill in February 1984, was operated on and wasfound to have an abdomen full of metastasized cancer. Afterchemotherapy and a brave, sweet struggle, he died July 30, 1984.
Throught the trauma and agony of those five short months, we askedourselves over and over–where were the warning signs of cancer? Wherehas research come up with answers? This is a man who in 72 years neversmoked anything–could never afford anything alcoholic other than anoccasional beer or highball! Never did anything to excess. I would be interested to see The Saturday Evening Post do anoccasional article on the rate of success of chemotherapy or cobalt orany method on the different types of cancer. Paul’s cancer wasadenocarcinoma. Are all seniors doomed to succumb to some type ofcancer? God help us all! Thank you for your excellent program andmagazine! Mrs. Norman Paul Johnson Sequim, Washington Dear Mrs. Johnson: It is true that our chances of getting cancer increase with eachyear as we grow older. The warning signs could be in the stool in theform of hidden blood and I’m sure you will want to do this testregularly yourself.
Eating a high-fiber diet protects against colon cancer. This hasbeen established with good research and is now backed up by the NationalCancer Institute. Concer of the colon and the rectum is thenation’s No. 2 killer cancer. We’re so sorry to learn thatit struck your husband so unexpectedly.
Gas Attack Dear Dr. SerVaas: I have a few problems which I hope you can assist me in solving. Ihave been trying to increase my intake of fiber and have tried many ofthe various bean recipes in your publication.
The trouble is theexcessive flatulence which these products cause. Is there any naturalremedy or method of preparation which can eliminate this problem? I hope to hear from you in the near future and hope you can offersome solution. Thank you for disseminating the information whichotherwise would not be available. Edward J. Beck Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Dear Mr. Beck: If you will drink at least eight cups of warm water daily you willhave less gas. While we don’t understand why, cold waterdoesn’t relieve flatus as well. Try drinking citrus tea which isnothing more than a quarter of lime in hot water with some prune juiceto sweeten.
Don’t drink tea or coffee to increase your waterintake because they contain caffeine and xanthine. More exercise willhelp too. Don’t add baking soda to your beans as you don’tneed the extra sodium. Passing gas from the colon is not harmful to your health, it’sjust embarrassing for some. Better to ignore the flatus and eat thebeans than suffer the real problem of a slightly smelly colostomy bagbrought on by nice polite refined fiber-depleted wind-free bland diet. Easier Home Testing For Hidden Blood Unlike other tests for hidden blood, Helena Laboratories’ newColoScreen Self-Test (CS-T) eliminates the need for unpleasant handlingof stool specimens. CS-T uses a chemical detector pad sandwichedbetween two sheets of biodegradable paper.
To perform the test, the padis floated in the toilet bowl following a bowel movement. If there isblood present, the test areas of the pad turn red. ColoScreenSelf-Test’s one-step testing makes messy sample and chemicalhandling obsolete. Test pad can be flushed in the toilet.
IUD Alert Doctors throughout the country have been receiving recall noticeson the Dalkon Shield intrauterine contraceptive devices. The DalkonShield was marketed between 1970 and 1974. In 1980 A.H. Robins, themanufacturer, recommended that the Dalkon Shield be removed from womenwho continued to use it; the Food and Drug Administration and othergovernment agencies followed suit in 1983. Substantial medical opinion holds that the continued use of theDalkon Shield may pose a serious personal health hazard to users.Therefore, Robins is launching a national public-information program toalert women still using the devices to call their physicians or clinicsfor an appointment to have them removed. The early IUDs were frequently expelled by the uterus.
To counterthis, the Dalkon Shield was designed. This device was not expelled soreadily as other designs because of small barbs along the sides. Thesebarbs, however, were the undoing of the device. Occasionally, theypenetrated the uterine wall with a dire consequence–bacteria from theuterus entered the abdominal cavity.
Peritonitis resulted and a fewrelated deaths have been reported. Robins is sponsoring television, newspaper and magazine advertisingasking women who believe they may still be using the Dalkon Shield tocall their physicians or clinics for an appointment. Robins will paythe customary fees charged for examination and removal of the device. The Dalkon Shield, “crablike’ in shape with fins oneither side, has a single tail string attached to enable the inserterand user to determine proper placement and to provide a means ofremoval. The tail string, thicker than that used with other IUDs, isblack in appearance and has a knot approximately three centimeters fromits end. Other makes of IUDs have two strings on them. If you can feeltwo strings, you do not have a Dalkon Shield and no examination isneeded. If you had an IUD inserted in the 1970s, and it has a single stringattached, chances are it is a Dalkon Shield.
The Robins Company willpay for your examination and for the removal of the device. For thisservice, you may go to your own doctor. Cat Call Dear Dr. SerVaas: This letter is in response to a letter to the editor in yourNovember 1984 issue of The Saturday Evening Post by Lois Harvey,Merriam, Kansas, titled “A Weakness for Cats.
‘ Ms. Harvey erroneously referred to the muscle weakness MartinaNavratilova experienced several years ago as an allergy to cats. Infact, she had contracted a disease from her cat called toxoplasmosis, aprotozoan disease that is widespread in both the human and animalpopulation.
Fortunately, it generally does not cause severe illness inmost cases but has the potential for causing abortion, birth defects andeven death in rare cases. Because the cat is the primary host for this disease, it is usuallyconsidered to be the main source of infection. Toxoplasmosis can alsobe contracted by eating rare meat that has not been heated to more than151|F.
, by drinking unpasteurized milk or by handling soil contaminatedwith the organism. Not all human ailments associated with animals are allergies, sotell your doctor if persistent symptoms occur. John S. Baker, D.V.
M. West Lafayette, Indiana Transplants Dear Dr. SerVaas: I would be interested in donating any or all of my organs at mydeath, even skin, bone, etc., for transplanting. I have a granddaughter who is now awaiting a heart-lung transplantin northern California or Palo Alto. She has been accepted and nowawaits a donor.
M. Hollingsworth Rowland Heights, California Dear Mrs. Hollingsworth: Your name has been entered on the computer at the SatEvePostSociety. We have also entered the need for a heart-lung transplant foryour granddaughter. All those willing to donate organs at the time oftheir death are encouraged to register at our exchange for Societymembers. Members needing organs are invited to register as well. The promise of cyclosporin to prevent or retard rejection oftransplants has created a great demand for organs.
The lack of organsis the greatest problem for victims and for physicians waiting to dotransplants. The Saturday Evening Post Society has a clearing house andcomputer space allotted so that all those willing to donate their organsat death can register with the Post. All those who now need an organ orexpect to need an organ in the future should also register their needsas potential recipients. Availabilities and needs will be matched on thecomputer.
Photo: Hepatitis viruses are shed in stools. They are also foundin semen and other body fluids. These viruses enter the body throughblood transfusions and through the mouth from eating food and drinkcontaminated by feces or by deviant oral sexual contact. Illicit drugusers are infected by sharing syringe needles. The cause of anotherliver disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, is unknown. (See page 58.
) Photo: We tried the ColoScreen Self-Test and found it did indeeddetect the small amount of blood we had added to the water in thelaboratory dish on the right. Dish on left contained clear water. Photo: Anyone still using one of these Dalkon Shields shouldcontact her physician immediately to have it removed.