The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 26, 1998 · Page 12
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 12

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Tuesday, May 26, 1998
Page 12
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TUESDAY. MAY 26, 1998 HEALTH THE SALINA JOURNAL PAP SMEARS Pap smear politics Are insurers holding up progress in test of cervix? By MICHELLE BOORSTEIN The Associated Press Executives at Neuromedical Systems Inc. thought they'd struck gold. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had just approved Neuromedical's PapNet, a computer system that reads Pap smears and points out abnormal-looking cervical cells that human screeners might miss. With 60 million Pap smears done each year in the United States, Neuromedical executives thought they had it made. It didn't turn out that way. Three years later, Neuromed- ical can't get insurance companies to reimburse laboratories that use its system, despite FDA approval and research showing that the computer catches diseased cells that humans reading the Pap smear miss. And this company, based in Suffern, a suburb north of New York City, is not alone. Fifty years after the Pap smear became the standard screen for cervical cancer, a new generation of tests and technologies is on the market. But like PapNet, most aren't covered by insurance and thus remain unknown by women and unused by their doctors. Insurers: Products too costly The products, insurers say, are more expensive than traditional Pap smears and drain resources that would be better spent educating women to start getting regular gynecological checkups. Makers of the tests, many doctors and Wall Street analysts say insurers are impeding the first improvements to the Pap since 1948. The issue has touched off a high-stakes debate about the future of the Pap smear. Credited with cutting the number of cervical cancer deaths by 70 percent, the Pap smear has become one of the most respected and successful disease-fighting tools in history. The test is "like a sacred cow," said Dr. J. Thomas Cox, who writes guidelines for the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, a group of gynecologists and obstetricians based in Hagerstown, Md. "Peo- The Associated Press Dr. J. Thomas Cox works last week in his women's health clinic at the University of California-Santa Barbara. Cox says the Pap smear test is "like a sacred cow." pie just can't see beyond it." It is this familiarity with the traditional Pap smear, coupled with the lack of reimbursement, that makes it so difficult to get the new products accepted, say industry watchers and doctors, some of who have lobbied Congress for Medicare coverage of the new tests. Even insurers admit the Pap smear is far from infallible. It misses problems about 20 percent of the time, according to the National Institutes of Health, usually because of poor cervical samples or difficulty reading the slides at the lab. Named for Dr. George Papani- colaou, the pathologist who developed it, the Pap smear involves the physician scraping cells from the cervix, at the neck of the uterus, with a special spatula or brush. The cells are smeared onto a glass slide, sprayed with a fixative and sent to a lab, where a technician reads the slide under a microscope. It's been done that way since 1948. But in the last five to 10 years, scientists have made major advances in cervical cancer research. With much of the code cracked, entrepreneurs began creating new products to improve the venerable Pap smear — or even replace it. Some, like PapNet and NeoPath Inc.'s AutoPap, use computers rather than human eyes to spot abnormal cells. Others, like ThinPrep by Cytyc Corp. and Prep by AutoCyte Inc., treat the cells with a liquid to remove blood and mucus that can hide cancerous changes. T SMOKING Birthday Celebration a <ashion palette \ ink you for making our store your store. We're flying high come in and pop a balloon to receive 10% '50% discounts on an item of each days purchases. It's our Birthday..IP But You Get The Presents!!! Register with each visit for many exciting gifts to be given away from: Brighton • Jay Jewelry • Graff On The Verge • Foxcroft • Hugo Jewelry • Marissa Christina • Sergio Lub • Lucia • Northern Isle • Ivy • Gotcha Covered and more... The Fashion Palette Mon.-Sat. 9 am-5 pm or by appointment* 215 W. 2nd • Minneapolis 785-392-3035 Researchers discover new ; x ' • *i— dangers to secondhand smolqfej Study is latest in a line of scientific indictments of passive smoking By LEE BOWMAN Scripps Howard News Service Spending just half an hour in a smoke-filled room is enough to start destroying blood stores of the body's defenses against arterial disease, researchers report in a new study. Writing in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, Finnish doctors said that a group of nonsmoking men and women lost about a third of their blood's capacity to rid the body of molecules that can damage or clog blood vessels. "The study demonstrates how secondhand smoke could increase the risk of coronary heart disease, a major cause of heart attacks," said Dr. Timo Kuusi, of Helsinki University Hospital. Specifically, cigarette smoke appears to deplete the body's supply of anti-oxidants, including vitamin C. Antioxidants neutralize toxic "oxygen-free radicals" — unstable molecules that are found in tobacco smoke. Free radicals can combine with cholesterol in the blood to create oxidized cholesterol. That's the dangerous form that can adhere to the inside walls of blood vessels to form piles of fat, which can block the blood vessels or form blood clots that can lead to T CANCER STUDY "The cardiovascular system is extremely sensitive to the chemicals found in environmental tobacco smoke" Dr. Timo Kuusi Finnish doctor and researcher for a report in the journal Circulation a heart attack or stroke. Kuusi and colleagues measured antioxidants in the nonsmokers blood with a test called total per- oxyl radical trapping potential of serum, and found that there had been a 31 percent drop in the potential of the blood to eliminate free radicals in just 30 minutes. "A short period of passive smoking changed cholesterol metabolism, favoring progression of (hardening of the arteries)," Kuusi said. "The cardiovascular system is extremely sensitive to the chemicals found in environmental tobacco smoke." He added that "free radical stress by secondhand smoke may have a more prominent effect on a nonsmoker than on an active smoker whose cardiovascular system has a more permanent (oxidant) imbalance, so the changes in measurements may not be as pronounced." The study is the latest in a| of scientific indictments of pa$ smoking. A study by researc|jli at Wake Forest University J>L lished in January found that hard-":; '* ening of the arteries is among both current and smokers, and also among smokers, with a direct liri tween time of exposure to and the extent of damage.^ study showed nonsmokers If! with or working beside a smo: actually had more damage to teries than former smokers. ;.,^ Free-radicals also have linked to the onset of cancer.: number of studies. Other research on smoking cancer published by several sci'£i tists last summer also indicai that genetic damage to lung that can result in cancer life persists at least 10 to 15 after a person quits. And the National Council estimated a ~-;.~]» that the risk of lung cancer for "a nonsmoker was 30 percent greater for people living with a than for a nonsmoker living i a nonsmoker. An estimated 90 million cans are current or former smpk^, ers; and its been reported that many as two-thirds of all workers have some environmental tobaccji^' exposure in their workplace,^J-^ : though the proportion has "been* shrinking rapidly with netoT ce-IL'2. strictions on smoking in shops, offices and public spaces. Cancer drug can be administered Report: Tumors in mice shrink when injected with angiostatin gene By The Associated Press WASHINGTON — A protein that attacks cancer by blocking blood vessel formation can be administered using a modified gene contained in a nonihfective virus, according to a French study involving laboratory mice. In a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, French researchers report that they caused tumors in mice to shrink by injecting the animals with a gene for angiostatin, a protein that blocks formation of blood vessels. The study will be published today. The researchers reported that the gene, contained in a modified virus, "was shown to dramatically inhibit primary tumor growth" in laboratory mice that had been injected with both rat and human cancers. Two drugs, angiostatin and en- dostatin, received wide publicity earlier this month when a researchers reported that injections of the compounds caused tumors in mice to shrink. Instead of injecting the drug d,^:,, . rectly, the French researchers'in-'' jected a virus that had been QJ*-S!*i,i nipulated to include a gene key part of the angiostatin njole f cule. '<» >v Inside the mice, the virus* apparently infected the target tumors and then made the angio- statin. This blocked formation of )( , £ blood vessels and caused the tumors to shrink, the researchers. :nt. said. .., ,, However, the paper said thai the - w experiment has been done onlyJ^- .;- H -j laboratory mice. Such animal experiments often fail to have 1 same effect in humans. "To be involved in the community you need to stay informed on local news. The newspaper is the best resource for community news. Reading the newspaper to your children is a great way to teach them to be aware of community events." -Hannah & Sherry Martin T|Y"V Sherry- YWCA Board of Directors^ •MMMM Salina Journal To start a subscription, call us at 823-6363 or 1-800-827-6363 nn>, 8ft

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