HEADLINES Published November28, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

Obamacare Has Increased Diagnosis of Early State Cervical Cancer

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A vial containing a Pap smear, the test that screens for cervical cancer.
(Photo : Angela Weiss, Getty Images)

There has been asubstantial increase in women under the age of 26 who have received a diagnosis of early-stage cervical cancer, according to a study by the American Cancer Society. This increase appears to be an effect of the Affordable Care Act, which is also known as Obamacare, because it allows young women to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26.

This provision of the act reduced the number of uninsured young when it took effect in 2010. According to government statistics, the percentage of 19- to 25-year-olds without health insurance declined from 34% in 2010 to 21% in the first quarter of 2014.

Researchers from the American Cancer Society examined whether this increase in coverage among young American women led to a greater likelihood of getting an early diagnosis for cervical cancer because of better access to screening. A Pap smear, the test that is used to screen for cervical cancer, is part of routine gynecological check-ups. Early diagnosis improves a woman's chances for survival and for preserving her fertility during treatment.

They used the National Cancer Data Base, a registry that includes about 70% of all cancer cases in the United States and compared diagnoses for women ages 21 to 25 who had cervical cancer with those for women ages 26 to 34 before and after the provision went into effect. Early-stage diagnoses rose substantially among the younger group that was covered by the provision and stayed flat in the older group.

About 79% of the younger group had an early-stage diagnosis in 2011 to 2012, up from about 71% in 2007 to 2009. For the older group, the percentage dropped to 71% from 73%, which is not a statistically significant difference. About 84% of the younger women had early-stage diagnoses in 2011, compared with 68%in 2009.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association

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