A St-APP in the Right Direction

Smartphone Technology Meets Women’s Health

While many of us in the United States of America take advantage of our smartphone apps for conveniences which include online banking, social networking, and reading our favorite blogs, women in Uganda have recently started utilizing their smartphones for more basic healthcare related functions- testing for vaginal infections.  Thanks to Vaginosis Her Health/BVkit, women who cannot easily afford or who do not have easy access to gynecologists can perform an at home urine test which measures the pH level of their urine.  If the pH measured is too high or too low, the Vaginosis App will advise the individual to seek medical attention and provide physician recommendations.

This app enhances the women’s health progress that has already been made in Uganda in recent years.  In 2006, Dr. Ian Jacobs, Dean and Head of the School of Medicine at the University of Manchester, established the Uganda Women’s Health Initiative (UWHI), a collaborative project between Britain and Uganda with the goal of improving screening and treatment for women in Uganda.  Poor detection of infection, such as bacterial vaginosis, may result in pelvic inflammatory disease, miscarriages, and cervical cancer.  Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer related deaths amongst women in Uganda.  Prior to UWHI, approximately 2,464 of the 3,577 women diagnosed with cervical cancer annually in Uganda died from the disease.  Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Jacobs, improved screening techniques have enabled earlier detection and treatment of cancer.  In addition, postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), defined as loss of more than 500 ml of blood within the first 24 hours following childbirth, is a common and often fatal condition in Uganda.  PPH is often treated with oxytocic medications, and UWHI has increased the availability of misoprostol, a similar drug that can be self-administered.  Finally, UWHI has helped reduce brain damage in newborns through innovative brain cooling techniques, and it has empowered more women to seek medical attention in general.

While progress has clearly been made, nevertheless we still have a ways to go.  For starters, the entire premise of the BVkit app involves owning a smartphone, and at present only approximately 5% of women in Uganda own smartphones.  The apps designers hope and expect that these numbers will increase in the near future.  In the meantime, they are trying to share their app with women in other countries such as Nigeria and South Africa, where approximately 30% of women own smartphones.  Who knows what creative concepts are in technological store for women in the future?  I encourage you to share your ideas and suggestions…and if you end up winning a Nobel Prize someday, feel free to give me a shout out.

Positive Prospects for Prevention

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and what better way to promote awareness than by blogging about exciting new research on the topic!  Much progress has been made by the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP), led by Dr. Caroline H. Dilworth, which is supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Cancer Institute.  BCERP seeks to explore both environmental and genetic factors associated with breast cancer risk over the course of the female lifespan.  Regarding the aforementioned environmental factors, BCERP analyzes exposure to various elements during specific periods during the lifespan (known as “windows of susceptibility”) such as during puberty or pregnancy.  Certain factors may be highly correlated with breast cancer developing during one period of life whereas it may be relatively benign during another.  Determining these environmental factors and gaining more information about them will be key in breast cancer prevention.

Furthermore, BCERP has recently launched a new initiative along with the National Institute of Health (NIH).  This phase of the research focuses on risk factors (such as breast density), and it expands the scope of participants to include more racially and ethnically diverse groups of women.  Including socio-economically disadvantaged women and women from minority groups is crucial for gaining a broadened perspective.  The research will be conducted at seven different centers across the country, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michigan State University, and Columbia University, just down the road from Revitalize Physical Therapy!

Many breakthroughs and much progress are yet to be made.  Fortunately, the path is being paved in the proper direction, and research is focusing on key areas which will hopefully lead to a significant amount of prevention.  Until then, it is of course important to perform monthly breast self-examinations (instructions here) and yearly mammograms starting at age forty.

Breast cancer survivors who have undergone surgeries that involve axillary lymph node removal may experience lymphedema, swelling of the upper extremity.  Manual lymphatic drainage, a component of complete decongestive therapy, is an appropriate intervention to reduce swelling.  If you or someone that you know stand to benefit from this treatment, please contact us at Revitalize Physical Therapy.  We look forward to the opportunity to help you!