- Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women, and it causes more deaths than any other type of female reproductive cancer.
- The five year survival rate for women diagnosed with invasive epithelial ovarian cancer is 46 percent.
- The reason for the above mentioned low survival rate is the fact that 75 percent of ovarian cancers have spread to the abdomen by the time they are detected.
- A woman with significant family history of breast and ovarian cancers is at significantly higher risk for getting these cancers.
“You have a significant family history if:
You have two or more close family members who have had breast and/or ovarian cancer, and/or
The breast cancer in the family members has been found before the age of 50.”
- Women can lower their risk of getting ovarian cancer by taking birth control pills. “This includes women who have a family history of ovarian cancer. Taking birth control pills for 5 years has been shown to reduce ovarian cancer risk by 50%. The protection lasts for many years after the pills were taken.”
Amanda Marcotte has said that it’s important to give a full-throated defense of contraception as contraception, and not bypass that defense by sticking to non-contraceptive health-related uses of the pill. Or, as she puts it,
… We need to frame our arguments as a full-throated, unapologetic belief that sex is good, women are good, and women’s right to enjoy sexual pleasure without shaming or government interference is good. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing enough of that. Instead, the most important argument—that a woman has a right to be a sexual creature and that sex is good—being abandoned by all sorts of liberals and feminists. The most common form this concession takes is well-meaning, and often person conceding the argument that women who have sex for pleasure are somehow less-than don’t intend to concede it. But that’s nonetheless what they’re doing. That concession looks like this:
“Some women aren’t even taking the birth control pill for contraception! They need it for cramps/endometriosis/etc.”
Every time you say this, a right winger wanting to imply that women who have sex for pleasure are sluts gets his wings. This statement and all variations on it feeds into the right wing claim that a) contraception is not health care and b) that women who have sex for pleasure are so indefensible that you have to lean on off-label uses for a contraceptive drug to justify its existence….
And, to some extent, I agree with her. Most use of the pill is, of course, contraceptive, and the fundamental divide, here, is over the value of that contraceptive use. I wouldn’t put it quite as she does, in “sex is good” terms, because, though sex is, of course, good, the fact is that women have varied opinions about what kind of sex is good, and, regardless of those varied opinions, approximately 99% of women in this country will use contraception at some point in their lives to have sex without babies, whether said sex is in the context of a lifelong marriage, or a not nearly so long lasting fling. Women who think hookup culture is just great use the pill, and so do women who want their sex to stay within the context of long term relationships. Family planning is good, and being able (while doing no harm to anyone else) to have babies when you’re ready and not when you’re not is good. And these things are good wherever you choose to draw your moral lines on what sort of sex is too casual.
Still, ovarian cancer is on my mind. I’ve now had a chance to read Rush Limbaugh’s apology, and it seems he apologized only for the word “slut,” while still maintaining that Sandra Fluke’s testimony (half of which concerned women who were using the pill for reasons like polycystic ovarian syndrome or endometriosis) was about “personal sexual recreational activities.” I’ve seen various other people referencing Fluke’s testimony, on the web, clearly without having read it, and suggesting that it was, sure enough, about her and other law students’ desire to have casual recreational sex. And ovarian cancer is, as I’ve said, on my mind lately.
Yes, I think contraception is a positive good. But I also doubt that you can make it harder for women to use the pill for contraception without making it harder for women at risk of ovarian cancer to use it for cancer prevention. If, for instance, a pharmacist (as is the case in certain states) gets a right to a “conscience” exemption from doing his job, allowing him to refuse to fill prescriptions for the pill without getting fired, then he may just as well wind up rejecting the prescription of a woman who needs to regularly take that pill for endometriosis as one who needs to take it in order not to get pregnant. If your insurance policy (unlike any insurance policy I’ve ever had) actually excludes contraception, then it probably requires that women who need the pill for non-contraceptive health reasons provide proof, sometimes to standards that even women who do have such health conditions may not meet to the insurance company’s satisfaction. And if the day were ever to come that Griswold v. Connecticut got reversed and states went back to banning contraception (not likely, to be sure, but Rick Santorum’s on record saying he wouldn’t have a problem with this), then a predictable result would be some women losing an ovary, or two, or a whole uterus, who might just possibly have been able to resolve their problems hormonally, if permitted to take the relevant hormones.