DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I had cervical cancer in my early 40s. I always read and hear that it is caused by a sexually transmitted virus. I did not have a sexually transmitted disease. I’m ashamed to tell anyone about my cancer because of this. Will you print something about this? – B.K.

ANSWER: Genital warts are responsible for virtually all cervical cancers. They, in turn, are caused by papillomaviruses, a large virus family with more than 100 distinctive strains. Some of those viruses cause everyday finger warts or plantar warts on the soles of the feet. Some cause genital warts. Of those that give rise to genital warts, a few lead to cell changes that evolve into cancer of the cervix.

When you hear the figures on cervical cancer, you will lose your unwarranted shame.

Every year in the United States close to 5.5 million women are infected with genital warts, and three-quarters of all North American women will contract the infection during their lives.

In 2004, 60,500 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed. Genital warts and cervical cancer are very common occurrences. Men can pass the virus without knowing they have it. You are viewing these conditions through a lens that’s distorting their true picture. There should be no guilt about having genital warts or cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer used to be the No. 1 cancer killer of women. Thanks to Dr. George Papanicolaou, who devised the Pap test in the 1940s, the incidence of death from cervical cancer has dropped by 70 percent in the 60 or so years since the inception of Pap screening, an incredible medical achievement. Now most cervical cancer is detected at an early stage, when it is curable.

The booklet on cervical cancer and Pap smears provides greater details on both subjects. Readers can obtain 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: We thought my father had Alzheimer’s disease. One of my brothers took my dad to a neurologist, and it’s this doctor’s opinion that he has something called frontotemporal lobar degeneration. What is it? What’s its treatment? – R.K.

ANSWER: Dementia, a failing of mental functions, covers many different illnesses. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common kind of dementia. Third on the list is your father’s condition, frontotemporal lobar degeneration. It hasn’t gotten the press coverage that Alzheimer’s has had so it does not have widespread public recognition, but it is not an uncommon condition.

In this illness, the frontal and the temporal (the side) areas of the brain lose nerve cells. The result is memory impairment and a general decline in mental functioning.

Distinctive to this illness is a profound change in behavior and personality. Affected people often act without any regard to social conventions. They might be extremely talkative and use offensive language. In time, they no longer understand the meaning of words, and the abilities to speak, read and write deteriorate. They become more or less mute.

Symptoms appear at a younger age than do Alzheimer’s symptoms, around the late 50s.

There is no treatment for the illness.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband has been taking lorazepam, the generic form of Ativan, for more than 10 years. He started it for panic attacks and anxiety. I have been trying to have him wean himself off the medicine for a long time. He tells me his doctor says the pills won’t hurt him. Please address this issue. – Anon.

ANSWER: Ativan (lorazepam) is a tranquilizer. Prolonged used of it can lead to dependency, and an abrupt stoppage of it could provoke withdrawal symptoms – increased anxiety, tingling sensations, loss of appetite and insomnia. His doctor is the one who should begin to wean him off the drug.

If his present doctor is reluctant to get him off the drug, a second opinion would be valuable. Talk him into seeking the advice of a different doctor.

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

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