Some warts turn into cervical cancer

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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I read with interest your column on cervical cancer. I was surprised to learn that genital warts are responsible for virtually all cervical cancers. I was under the impression that a cancer-causing virus was responsible, not the virus that causes warts. Would you clarify this for me? – K.H.

ANSWER: Viruses do cause cervical cancer. Those viruses are the papillomaviruses, of which there are more than 100 species, each designated by a number. All the papillomaviruses cause warts, but not necessarily genital warts. Some of those warts turn into cervical cancer.

About 40 species of papillomaviruses cause genital warts. Of those 40, 13 can cause genital warts that eventually evolve into cancer. Warts that appear on the hands or the feet or anyplace other than the genitals do not become cancer. Furthermore, only a few genital warts turn into cancer. I am being redundant in order to make this as clear as I can.

Papillomaviruses 16 and 18 are responsible for 70 percent of the genital warts that turn into cervical cancer. It is not possible by looking at a genital wart to tell if that wart harbors an innocent or a criminal papillomavirus.

The genital-wart problem is enormous. Every year in the United States, there are 6.2 million infections of genital warts. Every year there are more than 10,000 new cases of cervical cancer and 3,700 deaths resulting from cervical cancer. So you see that every wart doesn’t become cancerous, but enough do to make this a public health threat.

A vaccine is about to be marketed that will afford protection against the strains of papillomaviruses responsible for most cervical cancers. That’s an astounding accomplishment – a vaccine that prevents cancer.

The booklet on cervical cancer and Pap smears explains this topic thoroughly. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 1102, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: All night long, my husband serenades me by grinding his teeth. I tell him that he won’t have any teeth left unless he finds out what to do about this. He says it doesn’t bother him. It does bother me – very much. What causes it, and what can he do for it? What kind of doctor should he see? – V.R.

ANSWER: The medical name for teeth grinding is bruxism. Its causes are disputed. Mental stress, a high-strung personality, an abnormal alignment of the jaw, an out-of-kilter sleep cycle, alcohol and nicotine all have been cited as causes of bruxism.

The doctor your husband should first see is his dentist. You’re right – he will wear his teeth down. The dentist can fit him with a protective mouth guard. If he has to wait any length of time to see the dentist, then he can buy a mouth guard at a sporting-goods store, and that will afford some protection. It won’t be as comfortable as the one the dentist can provide for him, but it works as a substitute.

His dentist can also tell your husband which of the many possible causes is at work in his bruxism. He or she can address the issue or refer him to a professional who handles his particular problem.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Does the trembling of a Parkinson’s patient stop during sleep? My husband is under treatment for Parkinson’s. I have watched him when he’s asleep, and he has no tremor whatsoever. Does this mean he doesn’t need the Parkinson’s medicine? – N.A.

ANSWER: No, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t need his medicine, nor does it mean that he doesn’t have Parkinson’s disease. Almost all Parkinson’s patients lose their tremor when they’re asleep.

The tremor of Parkinson’s disease is a resting tremor. When people with Parkinson’s have their hands in their laps, their index finger and thumb are in constant motion, rubbing against each other. That is one of the more common tremors of Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com

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