‘Cervical’ is of the cervix? Health practitioners correct claims about San Lazaro death

January 30, 2020 - 5:19 PM
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Chinese nationals
Chinese workers wear masks at a transportation hub in Paranaque, Metro Manila, Philippines, January 30, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

The online medical community corrected claims about cervical lesions after a hospital director reported that the Chinese national under investigation for the 2019 novel coronavirus died from pneumonia.

The claim focused on one of the findings on the 29-year-old’s health that he had “cervical lesions” and “swollen lymph nodes,” among others.

San Lazaro Hospital director Dr. Edmundo Lopez previously said that the male patient “was seen with varying symptoms upon admission.”

“Mayroon siyang mga cervical lesions, mga kulani, mayroon siyang lung findings na rin, basically payat ang pasiyente, then mayroon siyang anal wart,” he said to reporters.

READ: Patient under investigation for 2019 nCoV dies in Manila hospital

Lopez added that the Chinese national also tested positive in two HIV screening tests.

His samples have been taken to Australia for confirmatory tests to find out if he carried the 2019-nCoV or not.

The man came from Yunnan province in China. The area has at least one confirmed case of the coronavirus so far, according to the World Health Organization.

On medical terms

When the Chinese national’s death was reported, a Filipino reporter questioned one of the hospital’s findings which revealed that he had “cervical lesions.”

“Can doctor of San Lazaro pls explain how a ‘male patient’ who died could have ‘cervical lesions’ when males have no cervix? Unless of course he is a transgender,” Raissa Robles wrote as she retweeted a news item.

Twitter users from the medical industry offered their insights, with one even telling her that it could be “quite tricky.”

“Cervical pertains to an area near the neck spine; cervical nodes or kulani in the neck may mean possible infections from the lungs or from the neck area (Male or Female). Cervix is the narrow passage forming the lower end of the uterus (female),” Dr. Anthony Leachon, a physical from Manila Doctors Hospital, said.

A clinical associate professor from the University of the Philippines’ College of Medicine offered a comprehensive explanation of the terms.

“‘Cervix’ is the Latin word for neck. The organ (commonly) referred to as the ‘cervix’ in female reproductive anatomy is actually an abbreviation of the full name ‘cervix uteri’ or ‘the neck of the uterus,'” Dr. Joel E. Contreras wrote.

“When used as an adjective, ‘cervix’ becomes ‘cervical’ in the same way ‘thorax’ becomes ‘thoracic,’ he added.

“In medical parlance, the word ‘cervical’ can also be used to refer to mean ‘pertaining to or part of the neck,’ as in cervical vertebrae, meaning the vertebrae that comprise the spinal column between the skull and the thorax,” the physician explained.

In defense of Robles, another Twitter user pointed out that it could be a matter of a communication problem and urged the public to use complete or specific terms, especially in the age of disinformation.

A Facebook user commented that the term “cervical lymphadenopathy” should be used instead, which refers to swollen cervical lymph nodes found in the neck.