Cervical cancer screening update: Not your mother’s Pap smear

Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisholm, MD, Contributor

Recent research supports the theory the human papilloma virus (HPV) plays a critical role in the development of abnormal cervical cells and cervical cancers. Based on this knowledge, experts believe that many women are being over-screened and treated for abnormal cells that are unlikely to ever become cancerous. Testing for strains of HPV associated with cervical cancer, along with the Pap smear, may do a better job preventing cervical cancer than the Pap smear alone. Guidelines are evolving and that yearly Pap smear may be unnecessary for many women.

6 tips for making the most of your child’s checkup

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Planning ahead of your child’s annual check-up can help you and the doctor get the most out of the visit. And be sure to take advantage of the resources available to you, such as email portals and the nurses and other staff in the doctor’s office. You might even consider making an appointment before the checkup. Doing so can be really helpful, especially when there is something complicated going on — like asthma acting up, school problems, worries about behavior, or a family crisis.

Sexually transmitted infections on the rise

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

Rates of several common sexually transmitted infections have been rising during the past few years. Many people with an STI have no idea they have been infected, so testing is crucial. If someone doesn’t know that they are infected, they can’t get treated. If they don’t get treated and have unprotected sex they will pass these infections to others.

Movember: Stashing prostate and testicular cancer awareness into the limelight

Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS

The Movember movement began in 2003 to help raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancers as well as other health concerns including mental health issues. One of the primary goals of this initiative is to encourage men to take the time to pay attention to their health. This includes doing self-exams and getting the necessary screenings so that cancers can be detected and treated earlier.

Heart disease and brain health: Looking at the links

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

To keep your brain in tip top shape as you age, work to lower your risk for heart disease. Steps that can help protect both your heart and cognitive abilities include getting regular physical activity, quitting smoking, managing blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Teens who use flavored e-cigarettes more likely to start smoking

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

E-cigarette smoking among teens is on the rise, and teens are more likely to transition from smoking e-cigarettes to smoking traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes are marketed towards young people, emphasizing the need for dialogue between teens and the adults in their lives on the health risks surrounding this trend.

Low levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol) appear connected to many health risks, not just heart disease

Deepak Bhatt, MD, MPH

Low LDL cholesterol and high HDL cholesterol lower your risk for cardiovascular disease. That is what the studies have always shown us. But a new study suggests that low HDL itself may not be the risk factor for heart disease we thought it was. It could merely be a sign of an unhealthy lifestyle, or other health risk factors, that also contribute to heart disease. Trying to find medications to raise HDL cholesterol may not be as effective as encouraging people to adopt healthier habits.

Why experts recommend newborns sleep in their parents’ room for the first year

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Experts now recommend that new parents sleep in the same room as their new infant for the first 6-12 months of his/her life. While this might wake the parents up more, it’s much safer for the child. Sudden unexplained infant death (SUID) happens much less frequently when the parents sleep in the same room as their baby. And six months will go by faster than you think.

Flu news: Now most people with egg allergies can get a flu shot

Wynne Armand, MD
Wynne Armand, MD, Contributing Editor

If you have been avoiding the flu shot because you’re allergic to eggs, studies suggest that you can safely get vaccinated. Allergic reactions to the flu shot are quite rare. If you’ve never had a reaction to a flu shot, protect yourself by getting one this year. Ideally do it in a doctor’s office or hospital so that you can get prompt treatment in the unlikely event you have an immediate, severe reaction.

The 2 reasons your child needs to get a flu shot this season

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

It’s especially important for children to get flu shots, both because the flu can hit the young with particular severity, and because of the potential to pass the illness to others.