Life-or-death advice on health concerns ranging from cervical and colon cancer to sexually transmitted disease was on the agenda when women peppered two gynecologists on the set of a local TV show.
The setting was last Thursday night’s taping of N’Zinga Shani ‘s (pictured) “21st Century Conversations,” which is aired on Citizens Television (public access TV for New Haven, Hamden and West Haven).
Thursday night’s show featured 15 women full of questions for the two experts, Drs. Peter Schwartz and Tom Rutherford (pictured, left to right), both gynecological oncologists at the Yale School of Medicine.
In preparing her shows, Shani typically brings her audience in an hour early so they can ask additional questions and reach a comfort level with the idea of being on live television. And she brings passion to her mission of providing necessary information to viewers who are unlikely to get it from network or for-profit cable shows.
Shani told her audience that in 2007, 40,000 women will be diagnosed with endometrial cancer, of whom 7,000 will die; 20,000 with ovarian cancer, of whom 15,000 will die; and 10,000 with cervical cancer, of whom 4,000 will die. The doctors confirmed her stats.
One woman asked, “Is colon cancer related to any other cancer?” Yes, and different cancers can cluster within the same family.
That was Important Point Number 1: Know your family history, and share it with your health care providers.
Another woman wanted to know the link between obesity, the foods one eats, and cancer.
Dr. Schwartz responded, “Obesity is a risk factor in almost all common female cancers.”
Important Point Number 2: A healthy diet—high in fiber and unprocessed foods and low in fatty foods with added salt and sugar—is critical to maintaining good health and fighting illness.
Sue Feldman (pictured), who works with a group of women recovering from substance abuse called Village of Power, asked about the role of stress in leading to illness. Dr. Rutherford responded that studies show that stress leads to a marked increase in many kinds of illness.
Important Point Number 3: Exercise is a great stress reducer (and also helps tackle obesity).
And Important Point Number 4: A lively discussion then ensued about cervical cancer, and whether the vaccine against it recently approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (Gardasil) should be given to girls 11 to 15, which is the FDA’s recommendation. The doctors said, emphatically, yes, because 25 percent of young women aged 15 to 19 have already been exposed to the virus that causes the cancer. By then it’s too late for the vaccine to work. (They said it could work partially, depending on how many of the four types of the virus the women had been exposed to.)
It turns out that men are carriers of the virus, and pass it on to their female partners. “And nothing happens to the men,” sighed Suzanna Lengyel (pictured). That’s mostly true, the docs said, although occasionally a man will get a wart on his genitalia.
A woman asked if it was true that having sex with a man is like having sex with all of his previous partners. Alas, it’s true, in terms of many of the sexually transmitted diseases that are out there.
Another Important Point: Smoking increases the risk of many diseases, so anyone who smokes should stop right now.
The doctors also emphasized the importance of patient support, that is, support from other patients who are dealing with the same illness. Schwartz said studies have shown that is the single most effective way for patients to cope—more effective than support from family members or even one-on-one counseling with a professional.
Shani’s website is full of valuable information on women’s health and other topics focused on African-Americans and other underserved populations.
posted by: Grant Thompson on October 22, 2007 9:54pm
Ms. Shani and the doctors are to be commended for presenting information that was not only new to many of us watching at home, but also literally life-saving. The women who asked questions are also to be commended. The quality of their questions and their eagerness to have this critical information was plain to see.
My question is this: why don’t Yale New Haven Hospital, St. Raphael’s and other health care providers free some resources to generate an ongoing series of programs to reach and educate the local public on such issues? There’re a slew of health conditions we collectively need to learn more about, including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, leukemia, Parkinson’s, and more.
I honestly can’t think of a better venue to learn this info—and have it stick—than from my local health care providers, answering questions from people in the community, on local cable, from the comfort of my own home. I can’t imagine it’d be that expensive to produce and it’d be a PR coup for any organizational providers that made a contribution.
Please do this and, in the meantime, THANK YOU, N’Zinga Shani!!
posted by: Dotty Franco on October 24, 2007 9:41am
The public needs more of this type of programming which educates us on our level in a non-threatening environment (our home). N’Zinga Shani has a passion for helping and educating people. I commend her on the work she is doing.
posted by: N'Zinga S. Shani on October 25, 2007 1:13am
I have been producing “21st Century Conversations” for the past 11 years and four months. The task has become increasingly daunting. There are roadblocks and unnecessary stressors. However, when the program is over, and someone walks up to me and say “I am so glad I came; I learned so much tonight.” Or I get an email or a phone call and someone says, ‘thank you for the program on Predatory Lending; seeing that program last Tuesday night saved me $10K’! Or a grandmother calls to say thanks for the critical information the doctor provided about pre-eaclampsia, or HPV, all of the frustration, stress and challenges fall away and I am gearing up for the next program. It is often very hard work for me.
However, none of it would be possible without the help of the technical people who come to CTV and NHTV and volunteer to help me to get the programs on the air. These people are critical to the process. I thank them all and I ask that more people come and get involved. I also ask the experts to volunteer with OneWorld, Inc. by providing us with helpful information that will benefit those most in need. We can all make a more positive difference if we pool together our resources.
I am tremendously grateful to the New Haven Independent for its coverage, and for being of such service to the community. We the people can really change things for the better; let us continue work at it with gusto. Peace
posted by: Susan Feldman on October 25, 2007 2:13pm
The discussion on women’s health was illuminating in many ways and allowed me to reflect on how to effectively provide education for the minority women who attend the Village of POWER, their children and friends. N’Zinga Shani posed questions that were on many peoples’ minds and allowed us to deepen our understanding of the complexity of this issue. This program is truly an educational and empowering vehicle for women seeking to understand and take care of their health. The Village of Power is about using knowledge to empower women and their families. This is exactly what OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc. does.
We at VOP are pleased to have this resource in our community; we are also delighted that the coverage provided by the NH Independent allows many others to benefit from what we experienced in the studio. Thanks to everyone involved.
Susan Feldman, LCSW
Village of Power, Hill Health Center
posted by: Lisa Monroe on October 25, 2007 8:40pm
The work N’Zinga Shani is doing to educate your audience on the diverse presentations of cancer and the various treatments and teams of physicians involved in the treatments is phenomenal.
posted by: Joyce J. Albert R.N on October 28, 2007 1:16pm
N,Zinga’s pograms are rich in valuable information regarding prevention of disease as well as information on how to cope with chronic disease such as , cancer , end stage renal disease etc.
Her shows target a variety of audiences , hightens awareness thru valuable education series.
Keep up the good work!
Joyce J. Albert R.N.
posted by: Rosemarie Jackson on October 28, 2007 3:36pm
As a woman in my 40’s, I consider myself fairly informed. I am concerned about, and try to take care of my health. However, reading the information provided at this Women’s Health Forum, and visiting the OneWorld web site, http://www.oneworldpi.org, the Patient Information pages, I got an extensive lesson. I say thanks to this totally volunteer organization, OneWorld Progressive Institute, for its “21st Century Conversations” TV program; they are doing an outstanding job of educating people in the community. I did not realize that HPV can be so deadly for women. I hope that we can get copies of the tape.
I sincerely hope that the churches, and the health and community foundations will help these OneWorld people to bring us more programs such as this one. This is a remarkable service to the community. When we watch the network channels we get 90 seconds sound bites, usually presented in a sensational manner. If we are lucky and there is a major health scare, we get 7 to 15 minutes segments. We, the average citizens, do not get to go into a TV studio and talk to medical experts. Thanks to N’Zinga Shani, the people at Yale, and her OneWorld volunteers. Keep these educational programs coming; we need them.
Mrs. Rose Jackson
posted by: Esther Duncan on November 1, 2007 10:53pm
What a wonderful opportunity being presented to the New Haven community. These days it is so difficult to see a doctor for more than 15 mins (when we are paying); to be able to sit in a TV studio and ask specialists detailed questions is a real gift. The women who attended this forum seemed to have made great use of the opportunity. Ms. Tuhus writes so vividly.
Thank you to the New Haven Independent for this excellent coverage, and to the doctors at Yale who have given so generously of their time. Hats off to N’Zinga Shani and her OneWorld Progressive Institute volunteers who consistently work so very hard to make a positive difference in the community. I am so pleased that we—in Woodbridge—can now see her excellent TV program, 21st Century Conversations, on Cablevision’s chan. 78 at regularly scheduled times and also on-demand. This speaks to the value assigned to this public access program. I encourage anyone who has not seen this program, to please ask your public access station to get it for you; it is without question one of the BEST programs available on television in CT. Thank you OneWorld, Inc., and thank you N’Zinga Shani for helping all of us to become more health literate.