Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
A breast cancer foundation caused an uproar this week when it announced that a new policy would bar Planned Parenthood from grants. Later in the week, the policy was changed again. Research released this week found that a new pill may help to control fibroids and that a newer type of radiation for prostate cancer treatment may have more side effects. A senator's recent stroke led to an article on the rise of strokes in younger adults. Pfizer recalled 1 million faulty packets of birth control pills this week. And the Carter Center announced $40 million in grants to help wipe out Guinea worm disease.
This Issue: Foundation in Uproar over Planned Parenthood Grants Pill May Help Control Fibroids in Uterus Strokes on the Rise in Younger Adults Proton Prostate Treatment May Have More Side Effects Faulty Birth Control Packets Recalled $40 Million Given to Fight Guinea Worm Disease
In the News:
Foundation in Uproar over Planned Parenthood Grants
Planned Parenthood received a deluge of donations this week after briefly losing funds from a breast-cancer charity. Early in the week, Susan G. Komen for the Cure canceled grants that had been used to support breast exams at Planned Parenthood clinics. Komen said the reason was to comply with a new policy. The policy denies funding to groups under investigation by authorities. A member of Congress has launched an inquiry into Planned Parenthood. The purpose is to find out if federal funds were improperly used for abortions. Komen's decision quickly came under attack. Planned Parenthood said that Komen had bowed to pressure from abortion opponents. Some of Komen's local chapters rebelled against the decision. Other donors also stepped in to support Planned Parenthood. By the end of the week, the group said it had received $3 million in new donations. On Friday, Komen said it had changed the new policy. Now it says that investigations must be "criminal and conclusive in nature and not political" for a group to lose funding. Komen said that Planned Parenthood could apply for grants again. The Associated Press wrote about the issue.
Pill May Help Control Fibroids in Uterus
A smaller dose of the "morning after" birth control pill may help to control fibroids in the uterus as well. That's the conclusion of two new studies. They were done in Europe, where the pill is awaiting approval. Fibroids are growths that can cause heavy bleeding and pain. Fibroids are not cancerous, but treatments often don't work well. Esmya is a lower dose of the drugs in Ella, an emergency birth control pill. The new studies included a total of 550 women with fibroids. All had such severe symptoms that they were planning surgery. In one study, women were randomly assigned to take Esmya or placebo (fake) pills for 3 months. The other study compared Esmya with a monthly hormone-blocking shot. It controls fibroids, but can thin bones after long use. Women received either Esmya and a fake shot, or a real shot and a fake pill. Esmya stopped bleeding and shrank fibroids in most women. The second study showed it worked as well as the shot, but with fewer side effects. The New England Journal of Medicine published the studies. The Associated Press wrote about them.
Strokes on the Rise in Younger Adults
The recent stroke of U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk shows that these attacks can happen at any age, the Associated Press (AP) said in an article published this week. Kirk's stroke occurred after a tear in the carotid artery to his brain. Doctors still don't know why that happened. Kirk, 52, an Illinois Republican, is fit and a devoted swimmer. But about 1 out of 4 U.S. strokes occurs in someone under age 65, AP said. The most common type of stroke is increasing among people under age 44. Hospital stays in this group for ischemic stroke have for risen by one-third in the last 10 years, AP said. An ischemic stroke is caused by a clot that blocks a blood vessel. Strokes are more common in younger people with high blood pressure and diabetes. These diseases are increasing along with the growth in obesity in the United States. Strokes also are occurring more often during or right after pregnancy, AP said. Many of these women had high blood pressure before they became pregnant. Researchers told AP it's important for younger people to learn the symptoms of a stroke and get treatment right away.
Proton Prostate Treatment May Have More Side Effects
A newer type of radiation treatment for prostate cancer may cause more side effects than older treatments, a study released this week finds. The study focused on proton therapy. This treatment uses radiation from proton particles instead of X-rays. These particles can target radiation more precisely to the tumor. The purpose is to spare other areas and reduce side effects. It has known benefits for eye tumors and some child cancers. But it is less studied as a prostate cancer treatment. Researchers looked at Medicare records for about 1,200 men treated for early-stage prostate cancers. Half received the most common type of X-ray treatment for prostate cancer. This treatment is known as intensity-modulated radiation therapy. The other men in the comparison received proton therapy. Among proton therapy patients, 18 out of 100 people had bowel side effects for each year of follow-up. About 12 out of 100 had these side effects in the other group. The study was presented this week at a medical conference. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Faulty Birth Control Packets Recalled
Pfizer Inc. recalled more than 1 million packets of birth control pills this week. The company said that a packaging error led to the recall. Women who took pills from the faulty packets would be at increased the risk of pregnancy, Pfizer said. The pills recalled were 14 lots of Lo/Ovral-28 and 14 lots of generic Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol. Their expiration dates ranged between July 31, 2013, and March 31, 2014. Most birth control prescriptions include 21 active tablets and 7 with no active ingredient. Pfizer said some of the faulty packets contained too many active tablets. Others had too few. Pfizer said the problems that led to the faulty products have been fixed. The Associated Press wrote about the recall.
$40 Million Given to Fight Guinea Worm Disease
The Carter Center said this week that it had received $40 million to help wipe out Guinea worm disease. About 3.5 million cases were reported in 20 countries in 1986. That's when the center, founded by former President Jimmy Carter, began its campaign. Last year, the center said, only 1,060 cases were reported. Most were in South Sudan, Mali and Ethiopia. The center wants to wipe out the disease by 2015. The new funds come from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children's Investment Fund Foundation and President Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. The United Kingdom also pledged $31 million last year. Guinea worm is a parasite. It enters the body when people drink water containing worm larvae. The worm grows inside the body until it is about 3 feet long. Then it slowly comes out through the skin. This process causes searing pain for months. The Carter Center has given away millions of pipe filters to keep the larvae out of drinking water. It also has spread the word in affected countries about how to prevent the disease. Canadian Press wrote about the large new donations.
Used with the permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved. The above summaries are not intended to provide advice on personal medical matters, nor are they intended to be a substitute for consultation with a physician.