January 2008 News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

With care, cervical cancer concerns can be combated

While the cause and origin of many cancers remains at least partially unknown, there’s a clear cause-and-effect relationship between the human papilloma virus, or HPV, and cervical cancer.

“Now that we know the cause of this kind of cancer, it may be possible to prevent it entirely,” says Dr. John Schorge, a gynecological oncologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Practicing safe sex can help reduce exposure to the virus, and an annual Pap smear can detect cellular changes in the cervix that may indicate cancer.

Researchers have developed a vaccine that protects against four HPV types, which together cause 70 percent of cervical cancers. Adult women should talk to a doctor about whether they should get the vaccine, Dr. Schorge says.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/patientcare/medicalservices/obgyn.html to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in gynecology and obstetrics.

Media Contact: Connie Piloto

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month.

The No. 1 cause of death by poisoning? Carbon monoxide fumes

Hundreds of people in America die every year from carbon monoxide produced by fuel-burning appliances in and around the home.

“Most cases result from using poorly installed gas appliances, running  gasoline-powered engines in garages, using gas-burning stoves to heat homes, or cooking with charcoal inside homes,” says Dr. Kurt Kleinschmidt, an emergency medicine and toxicology physician at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas without color or odor, is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels including charcoal, wood, oil and gas. In the winter months, these fuels often power indoor furnaces, ranges, water heaters, room heaters and vehicles. Unfortunately, the initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are like many common illnesses with symptoms that include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness.

Tips to avoid exposure include:

  • Ensure all appliances are installed properly and never use gas-powered kitchen appliances — such as a stove — to heat your home;
  • Don’t leave vehicles running in an attached garage;
  • Avoid burning charcoal or using fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent; and
  • Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in rooms with closed doors or windows or in any room where people sleep.

Dr. Kleinschmidt also strongly recommends installing carbon monoxide detectors for added protection. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air immediately, call the fire department and seek medical care.

Media Contact: Connie Piloto

Baby positioning basics: Back to sleep and tummy to play

Sudden infant death is a fear that is on the mind of all new parents. Most victims of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) are 2 to 4 months of age, and tragic incidences increase during cold weather.

Parents and caregivers can take preventive action to lower babies’ risk of SIDS. Dr. George Lister, chairman of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep.

“The back sleep position is the safest, and every sleep time counts,” Dr. Lister says. “Babies should also be placed on a firm sleep surface and not on pillows, blankets or other soft surfaces.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends a baby’s sleep area be close by, but separate from where parents sleep. A baby should not sleep in a bed or on a couch or armchair with adults or other children. If a baby is brought into bed for breastfeeding, parents should put their child back in a separate sleep area when finished.

While babies should always sleep on their backs, they can be placed on their tummies for supervised play time, Dr. Lister says. This position not only strengthens neck, arm, and shoulder muscles, it also promotes healthy brain development.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/patientcare/medicalservices/pediatrics.html to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in pediatrics.

Media Contact: Erin Prather Stafford

When rolling up sleeves, seniors need more vaccines than just flu

Although most senior citizens are aware of the annual flu vaccine’s importance, many do not know that two other immunizations are recommended for all adults over the age of 65.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of illness and death among seniors. Each year it causes more than 46,000 deaths in the U.S., more than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.

There are two types of pneumonia — viral and bacterial. Bacterial pneumonia is the most serious and can be caused by several types of bacteria. The pneumonia vaccine is effective against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria, says Dr. Craig Rubin, chairman of geriatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“The vaccine is safe and effective, provides long-term protection, and can be given at any time of the year,” Dr. Rubin says.

Seniors should also receive a tetanus booster once every 10 years. Although most people are immunized against tetanus as children, the protection does not last a lifetime.

The disease is caused by a common bacterium that lives in soil and dust. The bacteria typically enter the body through a deep puncture wound or cut, like those made by nails or knives. However, most cases of tetanus in older adults occur in people who don’t recall a major recent injury.

The booster shot is given typically as a combined tetanus-diphtheria vaccine, which also provides protection against diphtheria, a more rare disease.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/patientcare/medicalservices/geriatrics.html to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in geriatrics.

Media Contact: Erin Prather Stafford


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