Dear Dr Mitchell,
Is it true that my husband can get oral yeast infections if we have oral sex while I have an infection? Also, what is this I'm hearing about men getting throat cancer if a woman has HPV? We are very concerned!
The risk of transmission of a yeast infection by oral sexual activity is low, but possible. The risk of transmission to your partner is increased if his immune system is low. It is safer to delay sexual activity until the infection is properly treated to reduce the risk of exposure.
It is completely true that men can get throat cancer from a woman who has the human papilloma virus infection (HPV). Men can also transmit the infection to women if they have the HPV anywhere in their genital area. If serious genital warts are present these should be treated and contact should be reduced or minimised to prevent the risk of transmission. Condom usage will reduce transmission in only approximately 75 per cent of cases. The best way to prevent or reduced the risk of contracting the human papilloma virus is by vaccination. This HPV virus causes cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, throat and pelvis. Vaccination will reduce your risk of developing all these cancers especially cancer of the cervix which is a major problem in women in Jamaica and other developing countries.
Men also benefit from vaccination. They will reduce their disease level and reduce the risk of passing on the HPV to the partners.
Consult your doctor who will advise you further.
The pill and older women
Dear Dr Mitchell,
I am 30 years old and I've been on the pill for about six months now. I have no desire for children for another three years or so. Is it safe to remain on the pill until then? I've heard that older women shouldn't take the pill. Also, am I exposing myself to anything -- higher risk of cancer or the like by being on the pill in my 30s?
The oral contraceptive pill is perfectly safe and effective means of contraception for most women. It is important, however, before going on the pill that a complete physical examination is done to ensure that there are no contraindications to taking the pills.
Women who are at increased risk of complications include those who have uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, severe high blood pressure, obesity, a history of having had a clot in the legs or lungs, a history of oestrogen dependent cancer such as breast cancer and smokers.
Women who are above 40 years old should also consider using an alternative form of contraception since the risk or complications on oestrogen containing preparations increases significantly.
It is quite safe at 30 years old to continue on the oral contraceptive pill once you have been properly evaluated. The oral contraceptive pill has the additional benefit of reducing your risk of developing cancer of the ovary and uterus. It also reduces heavy menstrual flow and helps with decreasing pains during the menstrual period. It works well in women who have endometriosis since it suppresses the endometriosis and thus reduces the disabling pains that some women experience.
There is a slightly increased risk of developing cervical cancer in women who are on the oral contraceptive pill. This should not, however, be a major factor in deciding whether or not to take the pills. Cervical cancer can be prevented by doing regular pap smears every year and by vaccination. The cervical cancer vaccine is now widely available in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries and in the future it is hoped that cancer of the cervix will become a thing of the past.
Once you have decided to plan for a pregnancy, you should discontinue the pills and take daily folic acid as this will help to reduce the risk of your baby developing abnormalities in the brain and spinal cord. This is a good practice for all women planning a pregnancy.
Dr Sharmaine Mitchell is an obstetrician and gynaecologist. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@ jamaicaobserver.com; write to All Woman, 40-421/2 Beechwood Ave, Kingston 5; or fax to 968-2025. We regret we cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and must not be relied upon as an alternative to medical advice or treatment from your own doctor or other professional healthcare provider.