pap smears

  1. Study finds Gardasil safe -- but don't believe it

    New study on HPV shots misses the point

    Here's an urgent warning for anyone with a daughter or granddaughter and a vaccine-happy doctor pushing HPV shots: DON'T!

    A new study claims the main vaccine used against HPV, Gardasil, is safe despite plenty of evidence to the contrary -- including years of reports of side effects that include everything from serious and permanent nerve disorders right up to death.

    But the main thing you need to know about the study isn't the results, which are questionable at best. It's who paid for it: Merck, the makers of Gardasil.

    Sounds like they got their money's worth.

    Gardasil, as I'm sure you've heard by now, is often called the "cervical cancer vaccine" despite the fact that it doesn't actually protect against cervical cancer.

    It only protects against some -- not all -- strains of HPV, the virus that causes the disease.

    In the new study, researchers claimed the only risks of the shot were skin infections and fainting. And if that were true, the shot might be worth it even though it offers only limited protection.

    But it's not true.

    There have been literally thousands of serious adverse side effects linked to the shot and reported to the FDA -- including paralysis, temporary and permanent nerve damage, blindness, seizures, and even dozens of deaths.

    Despite all those well-documented risks, there's been pressure on parents from every direction -- pressure from doctors, pressure from school districts, and even pressure from the government, all aimed at getting little girls vaccinated to "protect" them from HPV.

    But you don't need a dangerous shot for that. In most cases, you don't need anything at all. Here are the three most important things every parent and grandparent should know about HPV prevention and protection:

    1. You can't get HPV without sexual contact, so it's critical to teach teens the importance of abstinence. Some parents laugh when I tell them this is the best vaccine of all. They tell me it's not realistic. I remind them that there are a number of sexually transmitted diseases that cannot be vaccinated against -- including HIV, gonorrhea, and syphilis, which can be deadly. Their chuckling soon stops.
    2. If you do get HPV -- and many people do, eventually -- your own body will take care of it 90 percent of the time, and this is according to the CDC's own numbers. No vaccine can match that success rate.
    3. A diet rich in cruciferous vegetables and vitamin E can help the body to beat HPV infections and even reduce the risk of the cervical dysplasia that can turn into cancer.

    Finally, remember that even cervical cancer itself is detectable, treatable, and beatable. Pap smears may be uncomfortable, but they are safe and non-toxic -- unlike HPV shots.

  2. Do women really need less of this life saving test?

    If there's any cancer screening that actually works -- one that saves lives without ruining any in the process -- it's the Pap smears used to detect cervical cancer in women.

    Yet the mainstream is starting to back away from them -- and now, the latest recommendations say women can get smeared much less frequently. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says most women can get Pap smears every three years between the ages of 21 and 65.

    Under 21 and older than 65 can skip the test altogether, and women between the ages of 30 and 65 can get theirs every five years if they get an HPV test at the same time as their Pap smear.

    That's a test that checks for the presence of the sexually transmitted HPV virus that causes the cancer.

    The Task Force says it just wants to cut back on screenings to lower the risk of overtreatment, since many cervical lesions will go away on their own -- and that's all true enough.

    But the Pap smear doesn't have the same issues as some of the other cancer screenings, like the radioactive mammograms that can actually cause the very breast cancers they're supposed to detect -- so the risks here are minimal.

    Dr. Mark Stengler put it best when I asked him about the new recommendations.

    "I have no problem with yearly screenings with a procedure that is nontoxic," he told me.

    On the other hand, he said some women can indeed safely go three to five years between screenings: women who are not sexually active and have no history that would suggest they're at risk for cervical cancer.

    But a Pap smear is really just a small piece of the picture here, because the best way to beat this cancer is to avoid getting in the first place.

    Dr. Stengler says one of the simplest ways to avoid the cervical dysplasia that can turn into cancer -- and even help beat the HPV infection that causes it -- is with a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, especially those rich in vitamin E.

    In his book "Prescription for Natural Cures," Dr. Stengler also offers seven natural remedies for cervical dysplasia, including indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and diindolylmethane (DIM).

    The names don't exactly roll off the tongue, but all you really need to know is that they're extracts from the cruciferous vegetables -- like broccoli -- that you should be eating anyway.

    I'm not done with women's health yet. Keep reading for the latest natural solution for hot flashes.

  3. The tests seniors should skip

    Even as the mainstream moves away from routine cancer screenings for men and women alike, there's one group of Americans that are still getting screened regularly for cancers that almost certainly won't hurt them. And that's the elderly.

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