News roundup for December 2002
A round up of the months news, compiled by Sara Vali with Catherine Redfern
Cervical cancer vaccine success
One of cancer’s biggest killers could be wiped out for the next generation of young women with a breakthrough vaccine against cervical cancer. Early clinical trials have shown it to be 100% effective. It also protects against genital warts. However, the vaccine would only be given to teenage girls as it only works in females who have not yet become sexually active.
UK stages Miss World despite Nigerian deaths
The Miss World contest was forced to evacuate from Nigeria, leaving behind it more than 200 people killed and at least 500 seriously injured in the wake of raging violence. The clashes were sparked by a newspaper article which suggested that the prophet Mohammad might have chosen his wife from among the contestants. Stella Din, a spokesperson for the contest, was quick to reassure the watching world that the contestants were safe. “We regret these incidents, but this is not the fault of Miss World. It is the result of irresponsible journalism,” she said. “The show definitely will go on.” Writer Muriel Grey warned the contestants would be wearing “swimwear dripping with blood”.
More women than men infected by HIV/Aids
The myth of Aids as a gay man’s disease was well and truly debunked with the publication of the latest report from UNAids. More women that men are now living with HIV/Aids and over 40m people worldwide are affected. Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland of the World Health Organization, called for urgent government action, warning that now is a “critical moment of opportunity and danger.”
Breast cancer delays criticised
A leading breast cancer expert has criticised the lengthy delays many women experience between diagnosis and radiotherapy. Paul Sauven from the Broomfield Hospital is concerned that a lack of NHS resources mean women are waiting 12-14 weeks for radiotherapy which should ideally follow hot on the heels of an breast cancer operation. The government has launched a multi-million pound investment in new radiotherapy equipment to help ease the delays.
Contraceptive supply running out
Supplies of Depo-Provera, a contraceptive injection used by thousands of British women, is running out. Its makers Pharmacia apologised for the inconvenience and blamed factory problems, adding it hopes supplies will be back to normal by mid-December. Doctors have warned the delay could lead to unplanned pregnancies. However, a spokeswoman for the Family Planning Association said this could be a chance for women to review their contraception: “There are other choices. It isn’t a question of suggesting to women that there is nothing else.”
British students sell their eggs
Two British university students have sold their eggs through a California-based fertility agency. The women – one in Bristol and one in Birmingham – were paid $6000 and $8000 for their eggs. The company, Egg Donation Inc, is now planning to advertise for more donors in a British newspaper. Karen Synesiou, the company’s founder and director, said there was huge demand in the US for British donors.
Misleading advert for new contraceptive pill to be withdrawn
An ad for a new contraceptive pill which claims to give women a sense of well-being and avoid weight gain is to be withdrawn after experts found it misleading. Schering Health Care launched the pill, ‘Yasmin’, this year with ads in the medical press featuring smiling women in soft-focus and the caption: ‘The pill for well-being’. However, the Medicines Control Agency reviewed the ad after concerns were raised and found not all its claims could be supported. One angry doctor said “When doctors advise women about their choices of contraception, they need to be fully, properly informed.”
Breast cancer charities tell women to keep being screened
Cancer charities have encouraged women to continue to have breast cancer screening despite calls for it to be scrapped by one of its pioneers. Professor Michael Baum warned that testing frequently led to ‘overtreatment’, with hundreds of healthy women undergoing unnecessary and mutilating treatment every year. Baum suggested that the money saved from scrapping the programme should be spent on new drugs and reducing waiting times. Cancer Research UK and Breakthrough Breast Cancer hit back at his claims, reminding women that early detection is vital to improve survival chances.
More refuges for victims of domestic abuse
A new £39m campaign aimed at reducing the number of women and children made homeless through domestic abuse has been launched. Barbara Roche, minister for social exclusion and equality, explained that the money would be used to set up a 24-hour helpline, more refuges and an internet database of all shelters.
False embryos implanted by debt-ridden scientist
An embryologist has been found guilty of implanting false embryos into women as part of a scam to pay off his debts. Paul Fielding, who worked at two Basingstoke clinics, was paid £350 a time to mix women’s eggs with their partners’ sperm, but instead gave them a test tube of saline solution. Fielding now faces a jail sentence. Many women wasted thousands on the bogus treatment. One of his victims was told her embryos stored by Fielding had ‘disappeared’. She said: “We were desperate for children and that was the closest thing we had to a baby. To me, when we walked into the clinic, I used to wave to them and very quietly say ‘mummy’s here’. That’s how much they meant to us. It was the best chance we had.”
Birth rate at an all-time low
The birth rate in England and Wales is at its lowest-ever recorded level. The average woman – whatever that is – is now having 1.64 children and waiting until age 27 before starting a family. It was also revealed that nationally one in five pregnancies ends in an abortion. The reason given for the declining birth rate was the usual one: women wanting to have a career before – or even instead of – having children. The Family Planning Association said the figures reflected the lack of support for wannabe mothers, contrasting the situation in the UK with that in Scandinavia, where men get a year’s paternity leave.
£3347,000 for woman who had healthy breast removed
The High Court awarded damages of £3347K to a woman who had a healthy breast removed after her tissue sample was mixed up with that of a woman with cancer. Anita Froggatt was told that her only chance was to have drastic surgery and high-level chemotherapy. The error was discovered three weeks after the operation. Froggatt, who has been left with restricted arm movement and had to give up her job, said: “I felt as though I was disfigured and unattractive. I had lost my right breast and was scarred on my arm and I felt as if I was no longer a woman or attractive to my husband.” Her pathologist, who was carrying more than three times the national average workload, has been forced to undergo retraining.
More news this month in brief…
“Women are often charged significantly more than men when calling out plumbers, electricians and other workmen” – Daily Mail
“First woman to compete on men’s Tour” – Independent Report
“Pill alert for cancer risk women” – BBC Report
“Radio station accused in sexism row” – Media Guardian Report
“Women at higher risk of lung cancer” – BBC Report
“Aguilera too sexy for children’s TV, say parents” – Media Guardian Report
“Why women aren’t making it to the top in the media” – Media Guardian Report
“Arrest in serial rapist hunt” – BBC Report
“Worries over ‘Botox parties'” – BBC Report
“‘Side effect free’ male pill” – BBC Report
“Gays to win same rights as married couples” – Independent Report
“Gay couples ‘to get equal rights'” – BBC Report
“Sexism ‘rife’ in cyberspace” – BBC Report
“Presenter John Leslie arrested” – BBC Report