DIGITAL SCREEN Mammograms have finally entered the computer age. The FDA last week approved the nation's first digital mammogram machine, manufactured by General Electric. The images it produces are not necessarily better than conventional mammograms, but they are easier to manipulate. If a suspicious area is spotted, doctors can enlarge it, reduce it or enhance the contrast. And patients who want a second opinion will no longer need to lug their films across town; the mammogram can be transmitted electronically--around the world, if necessary. Plus, as the technology improves, digital mammograms may one day mean less radiation for the breast.
LYME LEGACY Encouraging news from one of the longest follow-up studies yet of Lyme disease, involving patients infected for up to 10 years. While the tick-borne illness can sometimes cause debilitating pain, the majority of Lyme sufferers don't seem to wind up with any more numbness, fatigue or neck pain than those never touched by the disease. The finding, surprisingly, held true even for those whose disease was diagnosed and treated relatively late.
ORAL HYGIENE Yes, HIV can be transmitted through oral sex. Nearly 8% of newly infected men studied in San Francisco engaged only in such sexual activity. Most mistakenly thought the practice was perfectly safe, even though San Francisco is one of the most AIDS-savvy cities in the country. More alarming, the virus seemed to be transmitted even when there was no ejaculation. Why? Because HIV is present--apparently in high enough concentrations--in pre-ejaculate fluids. Remember the rule: always use a condom.
WEE ONES Even for full-term infants, being born tiny--less than 5.5 lbs. at 40 weeks--can have long-term consequences. As adults, folks born small are less likely to hold managerial or professional jobs and, on average, earn about 10% less than those who weighed more at birth. On the positive side, the once tiny tots report they are just as satisfied with their adult lives--and standard of living--as those who came into the world as big babies.
--By Janice M. Horowitz
Sources: Good News--General Electric Medical Inc., Journal of the American Medical Association (2/2/00); Bad News--CDC, Journal of the American Medical Association (2/2/00)