Dear Dr. Eva,
Can you get Hodgkin’s
lymphoma from a person that has it by swallowing their semen? He didn’t tell me
until later, and I heard it was caused by a virus. And that would be just about
Hodgkin's Lymphoma is
not an infectious condition. A person cannot get it from contact with the body
fluids (semen or blood) of a person who has it.
The reason this question
comes up is that some cancers are triggered by specific viruses. Some (not all)
cases of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and several other kinds of lymphoma as well, are
triggered by the Epstein Barr virus (EB). EB is an extremely common virus --
90% of adults have antibodies to EB virus in their blood, meaning they have
been infected with EBV. Many of these infections occur in young childhood and
are completely without symptoms- the child may not feel ill at all, or may have
a minor illness that seems just like the other minor viral illnesses of
childhood. When a person is not infected in childhood, and becomes
infected in adolescence or adulthood EB virus can cause mononucleosis
("mono"), a disease characterized by fever, prolonged sore throat,
severe fatigue, and sometimes liver and spleen enlargement. Mononucleosis
is usually a disease of adolescents and young adults. It is contagious through
saliva and is sometimes called the kissing disease.
occurs more often in people who have had mononucleosis. So it seems that
becoming infected with the EB virus at an older age (adolescence or older)
makes a person more likely to have a later reactivation of the virus causing
lymphoma. Some researchers have suggested that EBV associated Hodgkin’s
lymphoma could be eliminated by making sure everyone is exposed to the EB virus
in early childhood.
However, very few people
who have mononucleosis will develop lymphoma. So it seems that other factors
are involved. Inborn genetic vulnerability can be a predisposing factor.
So can acquired immunodeficiency such as occurs in people with AIDS.
This brings me back to
your original question. No, you cannot get Hodgkin’s lymphoma from a person
that has it by swallowing their semen. But you might get any number of other
things, including HIV! Unprotected oral sex is a common cause of oral syphilis,
throat gonorrhea, lip herpes, and warts on the lips or tongue. It’s less common
to catch HIV from oral sex, but it happens. For your health's sake, please use
a condom for oral sex or do without it.
Dear Dr. Eva,
I have noticed bumps
under my arms that come and go. Could these be signs of cancer? I stay really
clean and shave under my arms every day, so I’m sure it couldn’t be an
infection. Should I get a mammogram?
35 years old
If you are sure the
bumps come and go, that is a very good sign. Cancer related bumps (lymph nodes)
don’t come and go – they come and stay.
I suggest you see your
primary care medical provider for an exam and discussion.
Regular shaving does not
decrease the chance of infections – it actually increases the risk. Consider
not shaving, or using hair removal cream or waxing instead. If you feel you
must shave, use a new disposable razor every time and wash well with
antibacterial soap before shaving.
A mammogram is not
likely to be helpful. In women under 40, the breast tissue is denser, and
mammograms often cannot show a clear image. As a result, unnecessary biopsies
are done which cause scarring that makes future mammograms harder to interpret,
resulting in more unnecessary biopsies and scarring.
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