Some good news on early cervical cancer detection, birth control availability

With the presidential campaigns under way and some partisans playing crazy with health care issues, it’s refreshing to find some good news to report about women’s reproductive issues, specifically, increases in early diagnoses in young women of treatable cervical cancer and calm, quiet efforts in two states to empower pharmacists to prescribe birth control medications.

Researchers from the American Cancer Society attribute the favorable finding on cervical cancer diagnoses to an aspect of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare — more young women stayed on their parents’ insurance coverage and benefited from detection programs, the New York Times has reported.

This matters because the research shows that women with insurance are more likely to get screenings that identify the cancer early and: “Early diagnosis improves the prospects for survival because treatment is more effective and the chance of remission is higher. It also bolsters women’s chances for preserving their fertility during treatment.”

Since 2009, physicians have stepped up their efforts to detect and treat cervical cancers earlier in women, recommending that they start screenings at age 21.

They could, of course, do even more, as I’ve written before: MDs could overcome their prudish reluctance to discuss with parents and young teens the need to get vaccinated against HPV, a viral infection that causes cervical cancer.

Cheers to California, Oregon

Meantime, as the New York Times also has reported, there’s some reason to cheer the no muss, no fuss work of lawmakers in California and Oregon in allowing pharmacists soon to start prescribing birth control medications.

Aadvocates for women’s reproductive rights hope soon to see such drugs even more easily available — over-the-counter. They worry that allowing pharmacists to dispense them will block that step to even greater availability.

But lawmakers in the two Western states said they acted, with little political rancor, to increase the ease with which women could get birth control and safeguard against unwanted pregnancies while protecting their health; pharmacists will assess women for birth control medications, including through use of a questionnaire to surface potential health issues with their use.

The move to allow pharmacists to not just dispense but also to prescribe drugs is interesting in itself and worth watching.

A key part of the Obamacare reforms, particularly because the United States is expected to encounter a major shortfall in the number of primary care physicians, calls for medical professionals at all levels to undertake some new roles and responsibilities, the so-called step of performing to the peak of their certifications and capacities. MDs long have resisted any effort to broaden the power of their pen on scripts, which, sadly, for some, is both a too prevalent and profitable part of their practice,

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