Medical Monday: Breaking news From the World of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women’s Health 

To follow recent tradition, I will give the Zika update first. The WHO (World Health Organization) has reported that the spectrum of neurological damage to babies with Zika is greater than previously appreciated. Microcephaly is certainly the most obvious problem, but others such as spasticity, seizures, and vision problems are possible. 

This week a new method of acquiring the virus was confirmed. An American lab worker working with the Zika virus has contracted it though a needle stick. 

In the US, funding is still not present to fund the fight against the virus. Nonetheless, scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) are “aggressively pursuing" a vaccine. 

Research is also taking place regarding how to alter the genes of the Zika carrying mosquitos so that they are sterile. Wiping out an entire species through genetic engineering may have unintended consequences. Researchers are examining this important issue. 

Over thirteen hundred cases of Zika are confirmed in Puerto Rico, but there are probably many more including those who are asymptomatic. ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) is leading the effort to train physicians on the island to place IUDs for contraception. The WHO this week has finally issued a recommendation to women in affected areas to delay pregnancy. 

Both ovary and breast cancer therapies are in the news this week, and the messages are promising. For starters, research presented a the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology has highlighted 11 additional genetic mutations associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer. This may ultimately give us expanded opportunities for screening and treatment of this disease. 

On the treatment side, it turns out that a combination of IV and intraperitoneal chemotherapy is more life extending than either therapy alone, for the treatment of ovarian cancer. Also on the treatment side, it turns out that extending anti-cancer hormone therapy such as Tamoxifen for 10 instead of 5 years reduces risk of recurrence or second primary in older women with early stage breast cancer. 

Syphylis cases have more than tripled in the last decade. At the same time, the majority of sexually active women between 15-25 have NOT been screened EVER for any sexually transmitted infections since they do not believe themselves to be at risk.

The CDC ( Centers for Disease Control) has reported the “ the US obesity epidemic continues to worsen”. Fully 40% of US women are obese. Obese is defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or greater than 30. Do you know your BMI ?