At first glance, the headlines look bad for your reproductive health: Cervical cancer rates are rising in women under the age of 26. In just two years (from 2009 to 2011), early-stage diagnoses of cervical cancer jumped from 68 percent to 84 percent. Those are some scary numbers.
But according to researchers at the American Cancer Society, who recently published a study on the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), this is actually a good thing. Say whaa? (Don't miss these 5 Things You Must Know Before Your Next Pap Smear.)
In an effort to understand the tangible effects of the Affordable Care Act, researchers combed through the National Cancer Data Base, a hospital-based registry that tracks about 70 percent of all cancer cases in the United States. Over the course of their research, they found that the ACA had a particularly meaningful impact on the reproductive health of young women. It's not that more women are getting cervical cancer, it's that we're getting better at catching it earlier. Hence the rise in rates.
This is a really good thing, especially considering over 4,000 women die from the disease each year. Luckily, mortality rates plummet when you catch the cancer early. We're talking a 93 percent survival rate if you catch the cancer right away versus a 15 percent survival rate for stage four patients.
So what does the ACA have to do with these kickass early detection skills? Thank your parents' health insurance. Starting in 2010, the ACA allowed women under the age of 26 to remain on their parents' health insurance plans, meaning a group that historically has gone largely uninsured (read: unscreened for scary issues like cervical cancer), is now covered during those key years for reproductive health.
This is a huge win for researchers trying to trace the tangible health outcomes of the ACA—not to mention a huge win for your reproductive health.