The risk factors for developing cervical cancer are the same for all women regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation (LGBT Health Education .org). That said, bisexual women and lesbians are ten times less likely to get tested for cervical cancer.
Regular screenings, however, have been shown to be the best way to catch it early when treatment options and outcomes are the best. Lesbians are less likely to get preventative healthcare out of all women and lesbians and bisexuals are less likely to have health insurance that heterosexual women. Originally, cervical cancer was the most deadly form of cancer for women. Today, with early screening, it is one of the most preventable.
Since we know now that bisexual and lesbian women are the least likely to be screened, an outreach program is underway to get cervical cancer under control, and these two groups have been designated as priority populations. In addition, black women suffer the highest mortality rates from cervical cancer, while the highest age-adjusted rates are suffered by Hispanic women. Survival rate from cervical cancer within the first five years of being diagnosed is 67.9%, but if it is found early on, the survival rate is 90.7%. That’s why it’s so important to reach out to these populations and motivate them to get regular screenings.
Smoking, immunosuppression often related to HIV, and human papilloma virus (HPV) infection are major risk factors for cervical cancer. Many in the LGBT community such as lesbian women, bisexual women and transgender men who still have a cervix have higher chances of having or developing these other conditions, and so have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. What makes matters worse, since they are much less likely to be insured, they are less likely to seek out preventative care.
Obesity is another risk factor which is also higher among lesbians. Not as much data is available on bisexual women, though some studies show that they may have lower insurance rates and higher smoking rates, making them also more susceptible. One study found that 2.2% of bisexual women develop cervical cancer as opposed to 1.3% of heterosexual women. Hispanic and black bisexual and lesbian women should be particularly targeted for an outreach program.
Although we are seeing more and more types of studies being done concerning LGBT health, more still has to be done. We see that race and age data is often collected while sexual orientation data often slips through the cracks of the healthcare system. There has been a pivot recently. LGBT health is becoming more of a priority in communities across the country and certainly on the national front. We should see this data being collected more and issues such as this coming to the forefront, as well as policies and procedures to better address the health disparities suffered by the LGBT community.
Cervical Cancer Risk for Lesbians and WSW
Dr. M. Mirza, LGBT Health Wellness – 2015