A misconception that LGB women are not at risk of cervical cancer is ‘fake news’. This fake news is leaving them at great risk.
The National Health Service’s national advisor for LGBT health in the UK, Dr Michael Brady, warned up to 50,000 LGB women have never had a cervical cancer screening because they wrongly think they are not at risk.
But any sexual activity can pass on the virus which causes the vast majority of cervical cancers, he warned.
The LGBTI Foundation revealed one in five women eligible for cervical screening has never been to an appointment.
Brady these figures were ‘a major concern’.
‘The misleading information that gay and bisexual women aren’t at risk of this disease is one of the most dangerous myths around, because it has created a screening gap for thousands, which is a major concern for our community,’ he said.
Cervical cancer – the facts
An estimated four out of five cases of cervical cancer, 83%, could be prevented if everyone attended regular screenings.
Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that affects the mouth, throat and genital area. It is a virus most people get some form of it in their lifetime.
HPV is passed on through any type of sexual activity, meaning that anyone who is sexually active could contract the virus.
Cervical screening and HPV testing is the best way to prevent cervical cancer, but too many people who are eligible are not taking up the offer.
The NHS Long Term Plan sets out action to tackle major killers like cancer and a renewed focus on prevention.
Brady acknowledged that LGB women may also skip cervical screenings because of a perception or experience of discrimination. But he hope to change that in his newly appointed role.
‘We also know that NHS screening services need to be inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual trans and non-binary people, and I’m delighted to have been asked to help the NHS address these issues and more,’ he said.
NHS England is rolling out a new HPV testing process into cervical screening services by 2020. The services are more sensitive and reliable than the current process and could prevent around 600 additional cancers a year.
‘Let’s be clear: cancer does not discriminate. If you’ve got a cervix, you can get cervical cancer, and as cervical cancer is preventable people should take up their regular screening appointments,’ Brady said.
Trans men – or anyone who has a cervix – are also at risk for cervical cancer.
‘Cervical cancer can affect anyone born with a cervix, regardless of gender or sexual identity,’ said Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
‘Addressing harmful myths, such as cervical screening being less important for the LGBT community must be urgently addressed.
‘Cervical screening can be a difficult test for many reasons and we must be focused on removing the barriers that exist and ensuring every eligible person fully understands what cervical screening is for, knows where to access support and feels able to take up their invitation if they wish to do so.’