News and Issues

Abolishing Mammography Screening Programs? A View from Switzerland

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Whether or not to abolish mammography screening programs in Switzerland was the subject of a recent piece in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The commentary discusses the assessment the Swiss Medical Board undertook of mammography last year, in which the assessors became “increasingly concerned.”

The assessors noted that the ongoing debate on mammography “was based on a series of reanalyses of the same, predominantly outdated trials.”

They were also “struck by how nonobvious it was that the benefits of mammography screening outweighed the harms.” And, thirdly, they were “disconcerted by the pronounced discrepancy between women's perceptions of the benefits of mammography screening and the benefits to be expected in reality.”

Their report acknowledged that screening “might prevent about one death attributed to breast cancer for every 1000 women screened, even though there was no evidence to suggest that overall mortality was affected.”

Their report also “emphasized the harm — in particular, false positive test results and the risk of overdiagnosis."

Read "Abolishing Mammography Screening Programs? A View from the Swiss Medical Board" by Nikola Biller-Andorno, M.D., Ph.D., and Peter Jüni, M.D. in the New England Journal of Medicine.

CWHN has examined the mammography debate numerous times over the past years, most recently in Cornelia Baines’ Guest Column, Unpacking the great mammography debate.

We Can Tell and We Will

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DAWN-RAFH Canada is working to increase access to justice for women with disabilities and deaf women who are victims of crime.

Montreal (April 8, 2014) In recognition of National Victims of Crime Awareness Week April 6-12, the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada / Réseau d’action des femmes handicapées (DAWN-RAFH Canada) is launching a campaign aimed at informing women with disabilities and Deaf women about their right to report abuse and to have their abusers tried in court.

Entitled “We Can Tell and We Will,” the campaign includes a Public Service Announcement (PSA) which depicts two women with intellectual disabilities and one with a communication difference describing abuse and stating that abuse is unacceptable. The PSA encourages women with disabilities to report abuse and informs them that there are advocates who can support them to do so.

DAWN-RAFH Canada's campaign is designed to bring attention to the precedent-setting decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, a court case referred to as the D.A.I. case. It involved a woman with an intellectual disability who reported that her step-father had sexually assaulted her. The provincial court disallowed her testimony on the grounds that she was not competent to testify because she could not demonstrate that she understood the meaning of an "oath” or a “promise” in order to tell the truth. As a result, the accused was acquitted.

Read the press release and see the video on their website.

Reactions to Morgentaler Clinic closing in New Brunswick

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The Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick has announced that it is closing this summer due to lack of funding.

This would mean that women can access abortion only at two hospitals in that province. They are also restricted by a provincial regulation that requires two doctors' approval.

In Huffington Post, MP Niki Ashton notes that Regulation 84-20 says New Brunswick women can access an abortion at a hospital in the province only if two doctors certify in writing that it is medically necessary. “This directly opposes the R. v. Morgentaler decision in 1988. Moreover, by imposing these restrictions it compromises women's health,” Ashton writes. Read more: What You Can Do to Fight For the Morgentaler Clinic.

PEI Status of Women responded quickly to the news, saying that the clinic's impending closure is "a serious challenge for Prince Edward Island women who require a safe, timely abortion." PEI is the only province where abortion is not available. PEI women must travel to other provinces to obtain an abortion, and many go to the Morgentaler Clinic in New Brunswick. See their press release at: Response to the Closure of the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, NB.

Read the story on CBC: Morgentaler abortion clinic in Fredericton to close.

Health Canada releases first drug review, on Diane-35

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Health Canada’s recent short summary of Diane 35 raises more questions than it answers, according to an article in the Toronto Star. Drug safety researcher Barbara Mintzes called the assessment “highly problematic” and “quite limited” in scope.

Diane-35 has been linked to several deaths of young women in Canada. About 40,000 Canadian women are on the pill, which is approved for what is considered otherwise untreatable acne, Health Canada has reported.

Read Health Canada releases summary report of controversial drug Diane-35

See more about Health Canada’s Diane-35 drug review in the Globe and Mail: Review of acne drug related to deaths first of reviews to be released on new website.

Explore more on CWHN about this issue, in Diane-35: Reconsidering the risks by Holly Grigg-Spall.

Paula Johnson: His and hers … healthcare

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Video from TEDWomen 2013:

Every cell in the human body has a sex, which means that men and women are different right down to the cellular level. Yet too often, research and medicine ignore this insight — and the often startlingly different ways in which the two sexes respond to disease or treatment. As pioneering doctor Paula Johnson describes in this thought-provoking talk, lumping everyone in together means we essentially leave women's health to chance. It's time to rethink.

Watch the video of Paula Johnson's His and hers … healthcare.

From Compliance to Activism: A Mother’s Journey

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This article was recently featured on the Mad in America website. Investigative journalist Rob Wipond tells the riveting story of Cindi Fisher, a mother whose enduring love for her involuntarily committed son gradually changed her from compliant mom to mental health civil rights activist.

Read From Compliance to Activism: A Mother’s Journey.

Read more about Mad in America, a site designed to serve as a resource and a community for those interested in rethinking psychiatric care, at Launching MIA Reports.

New fibromyalgia criteria in US improve diagnosis, says study

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The American College of Rheumatology modified their criteria in 2011 for diagnosing fibromyalgia. According to a new study published February 4 in Arthritis Care & Research, the new criteria reliably diagnoses fibromyalgia in a large, diverse group of patients suffering from pain. As well, the easier-to-use alternate criteria with broader symptoms and pain locations are even more specific.

Read more about this study on Medscape: Fibromyalgia: New Criteria Improve Diagnosis (Subscription to Medscape may be required to see this article, but the subscription is free. )

Mammogram screening not preventing breast cancer deaths, new study suggests

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The debate over mammography has just heated up considerably, with the publication this week of the results of a large-scale Canadian study.

The study, conducted on 90,000 Canadian women, has cast strong doubts on the value of mammography to prevent deaths from breast cancer. It examined the impact of screening mammography on cancer rates and deaths to cancer in women aged 40 to 59 who were followed for nearly 25 years. Researchers compared two groups of women: those who had screening mammograms  and those who had breast lumps checked by a health professional. It found that the numbers of women who died from breast cancer in the two groups were virtually the same.

Published Feburary 12 in the the British Medical Journal, the study is already making waves through the medical community, and beyond, adding to the already heated debate about mammography as a breast cancer screening tool.

Dr. Cornelia Baines, one of the study’s authors, published an article on our website in 2012, discussing this study and the debate surrounding it. Read Unpacking the great mammography debate.

Read the BMJ article on the study, and the editorial, below.

Female genital cosmetic surgery: Through a critical lens

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Interesting comments about female sexual cosmetic surgery, quoting doctors who do this surgery, appeared recently in the National Post article, Wave of popularity for cosmetic surgery on female genitalia worries some critics.

The article discusses the recent policy statement by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) on these increasingly popular operations. The SOGC has said that there is little evidence that the operations improve sexual functioning or self-esteem.

CWHN has done a podcast on this practice, talking with Lenore Tiefer, an expert in the medicalization of sex, and Lyba Spring, our “Spring Talks Sex” blogger, who  worked as a sexual health educator for Toronto Public Health for nearly 30 years. Listen to it here: Designer Genitalia - Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery

On a related issue, read Lyba’s Spring's blog on our website: Spring Talk Sex – Body Hair.

 

Lack of abortion access in PEI fuels risks to women

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This CBC story looks at a new study on how the lack of abortion services is affecting women in PEI:

"A lack of local abortion access is detrimental to women's health, says a University of Prince Edward Island researcher.   

"This after reports of illegal or failed-attempt abortions on P.E.I. — the only province where women have to leave for the procedure.        

"UPEI psychology professor, Colleen MacQuarrie, has been researching how women have been affected by the province's abortion policies since 2011."             

Read the whole story on CBC.

 

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