Ovarian Cancer, Endometrial Cancer, and the Pill

birth-control-pillsThe most popular method of birth control in the United States is the Pill, followed by tubal ligation (permanent sterilization, or getting your tubes tied) and condoms. The Pill is a hormonal method of contraception, while sterilization and condoms are nonhormonal. The distinction between hormonal and nonhormonal methods of birth control are simply that the former contain synthetic versions of human hormones, while the latter do not.


By suppressing ovulation and thinning the uterine lining, the Pill can reduce risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers.


Glands in our bodies, called endocrine glands, produce hormones; additionally, testes and ovaries — which are parts of the human reproductive system — manufacture hormones. Human hormones are powerful chemicals, which do all sorts of jobs, from triggering puberty to helping us extract energy from the foods we eat. So it’s not a huge stretch to wonder if exposure to the hormones present in certain birth control methods — such as the Pill, in addition to the patch, the ring, the shot, the implant, and some types of IUDs — might have unintended effects on the body. Because hormones can play a role in cancer — either in protecting against it or aiding in its development — researchers are very interested to know if the Pill might increase or decrease risk for various types of cancer.

It’s actually a bit tricky to investigate the possible associations between the Pill and various types of cancer. First of all, there are dozens of types of birth control pills, all with different versions of synthetic hormones, at different dosages, and in different proportions to one another. Furthermore, the types of oral contraceptives on the market change over time — today’s birth control pill is not your mother’s birth control pill. Studying “the Pill” as a single entity could obscure differences between brands. Secondly, most cancers tend to develop later in life, many years after someone may have taken oral contraceptives. Researchers need to be careful to control for all the variables that might increase or decrease cancer risk. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • same-sex-coupleLet’s start this rundown off right with some heartening, touching news: Our uber-conservative governor, Doug Ducey, shocked us all by clearing the way for same-sex couples to adopt and foster children in Arizona. (AZ Central)
  • Somebody pinch me. More Arizona goodness: A Scottsdale venture capitalist is doing his part to ensure that women in the United States have access to affordable birth control. How terrific! (Tucson Sentinel)
  • Delaying pregnancy could reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. (Live Science)
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 90 percent of teenagers who are sexually active used some form of birth control the last time they were intimate. Ninety percent! Ahhh-mazing. (Tech Times)
  • Dear Religious Right: My president is not here for your “conversion therapy” shenanigans. (NYT)
  • Will California pass a bill to force “crisis pregnancy centers” to start giving abortion options? If so, I’ll go ahead and wager my entire bank account that these lying liars will close every single location. Sorry, but the truth is they’d much rather deceive women than help them. (RH Reality Check)
  • Joining Utah, South Dakota, and Missouri, North Carolina is on track to become the fourth state in the nation to enact a three-day waiting period for abortion. Congratulations on sucking, all of you.  (The News & Observer)
  • Kansas has banned the safest and most convenient procedure for women undergoing second-trimester abortions. (NYT)
  • The whirlwind of Republican idiocy continues in Alabama, where conservatives are now trying to prevent abortion clinics from being located within 2,000 feet of a public school. Because someone terminating a pregnancy could somehow affect anonymous, oblivious school children? Does Alabama ban guns (including concealed carry) within 2,000 feet of public schools? Nope!!! (Montgomery Advertiser)
  • Younger Republicans are less pig-headed about birth control than their older peers, but still fairly pig-headed. (HuffPo)
  • Women who develop gestational diabetes early in their pregnancies are more likely to give birth to children who will later be diagnosed with autism. (Reuters)

Let’s Talk Contraception: Can I Use Birth Control to Skip a Period?

In 2003, the FDA approved Seasonale, an extended-cycle birth control pill. This pill, a combination of estrogen and progestin, is taken daily for 84 days followed by one week of inactive (placebo) pills, allowing a woman to have her period once every three months — four times per year.

Since that time, several other extended-cycle birth control pills have been marketed, including Lybrel, released in 2007, which offers women continuous contraception coverage with only one period per year.


Using birth control to skip periods doesn’t result in side effects quite this exaggerated.

Prior to Seasonale’s debut, certain types of birth control pills could be taken back to back, allowing users to have period-free weddings and honeymoons, or to treat certain conditions, such as endometriosis. But there was no consensus about how to use birth control pills this way, and no actual product marketed specifically for this type of use. Early studies on extended-cycle pills reported that users were highly satisfied using pills to have fewer periods — and wanted to continue using these pills to reduce periods after the study was completed.

Can skipping periods be beneficial or harmful? Is this a lifestyle choice that’s not “natural”? How many “normal” periods do you need in a lifetime? Continue reading

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 16: Blood Tests to Screen for Ovarian Cancer

repro systemWelcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl never knew about.


September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.


Ovarian cancer can strike anyone with ovaries, although it is most common in people who are more than 55 years old. It starts when certain mutations in ovarian cells start to proliferate, resulting in tumor growth. (Some types of ovarian cancer can originate in the fallopian tubes, but most ovarian cancers arise from the cells that cover the surface of the ovary.) If a cancerous cell breaks away, it might set up camp elsewhere in the body, resulting in the cancer’s spread. It can be a serious condition, affecting around one out of 71 ovary-wielding individuals.

What causes ovarian cancer?

If you learned about the reproductive system in school, you probably remember that ovulation involves the release of an egg from an ovary. What your teacher probably didn’t tell you is that the process of ovulation is actually rather violent. An egg does not exit the ovary through a preexisting “doorway” and shuttle down the fallopian tube to make its way to the uterus. Nope, when an egg is “released,” it actually bursts through the ovary itself.

OH YEAHUnfortunately, during ovulation, the egg perforates the ovary, creating a lot of tissue damage. The ovary needs to repair itself, sort of like how bricklayers will need to be hired to fix that mess left by the Kool Aid man. Because ovarian cells are so often replicating themselves during the repair process, there are more chances for an error to occur. Cells that divide frequently, like ovarian cells, are more prone to becoming cancerous. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Janie Hydrick for State Senator, LD 18

The Arizona general election will be held on November 6, 2012, with early voting starting on October 11. After the many recent legislative challenges to reproductive health care access, both nationally and statewide, the importance of voting in November can’t be overstated. To help voters, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive health and freedom. Along with those endorsements, we are spotlighting our endorsed candidates in a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” To vote in the general election, you must register to vote by October 9 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2012!

Dr. Janie Hydrick has served Arizona as a public educator for the past 45 years. Additionally, she has held several leadership positions in professional organizations, including the National Education Association, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the American Association of University Women, and the National Council of Teachers of English. Dr. Hydrick now seeks to use that experience to represent Arizona’s Legislative District 18 — encompassing part of the southern Phoenix metro area — in the Arizona State Senate.

She took the time for an interview with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona on September 14, 2012.


“I was always aware of how critical women’s health was, not only to the individual woman and her family, but to the health and economy of the country.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I’ve been a public education classroom teacher for 45 years and still teach part-time at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. My husband, son, daughter, and I have lived in Arizona for three decades, and we welcomed my first grandchild two months ago. His parents want for him what we want for every Arizonan: a safe neighborhood, a quality public education, quality health care, and a quality job when he’s ready to enter a global, 21st-century workforce.

In the previous legislative session, there were a lot of bad bills that negatively affected access to birth control (HB2625), funding for family planning (HB2800), abortion (HB2036), and unbiased information about unintended pregnancies in public schools (SB1009). What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?

Beneficial legislation is legislation that protects a woman’s right to make decisions that impact her health, her body, and her family. Women, not the government, should be making those decisions with their loved ones, their faith, and their doctors. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Woman Sues Over Ex-Boyfriend’s Heinous Miscarriage Billboard. Ugh. (Jezebel)
  • Apparently, Americans are sick and freaking tired of Congress’s obsession with restricting abortion. Nice sentiment but they should have thought about that before electing these clowns into office. (Politico)
  • Abortion “showdown” could cost Indiana $4.3 billion. And it’s a “showdown” they ain’t gonna win anyway. So move on already Hoosier State. (AP)
  • Ohio Lawmakers Vote to Ban Abortions at Publicly Funded Clinics, Hospitals. No word yet on whether there will be exceptions based on the life and health of the mother but if you remember the debacle at St. Joseph’s in Phoenix a while back, it’s probably safe to assume there won’t be any exceptions. (RH Reality Check)
  • Ovarian cancer screening doesn’t actually save lives? Someone should probably alert the medical field about that. (MSNBC)
  • Remember those anti-choice billboards targeting blacks stating “The Most Dangerous Place For an African American Is The Womb”? Well, now Latinos are the target. Wonder if white women will be next? Something tells me no. (The Daily Caller)
  • The Pill does not cause weight gain. However, food, in large quantities without adequate exercise, does. (EurekAlert)
  • The CDC estimates that 20% of people infected with HIV don’t know it and one-third are diagnosed so late in the course of their infection that they develop AIDS within one year. This is why it’s so important to be tested regularly! (USA Today)
  • When in Doubt About Sexual Health, Teens Turn to Google. Not their parents, Google! (HuffPo)