Lesbians & Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer is not exclusive to heterosexual women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) All sexually active women could be exposed to risk factors for cervical cancer, lesbian and heterosexual women alike. Cervical cancer screening is important for all women.

A recent Internet survey asked a group of lesbians about their cervical cancer screening practices and discovered the many women in this community do not undergo routine screening.

Primary care physicians may be missing opportunities to recommend screening to these women.

"Talk to your healthcare provider about cervical cancer screening."

J. Kathleen Tracy, PhD, associate professor in the department of epidemiology and public health at the School of Medicine at University of Maryland, presented the evidence at the American Association for Cancer Research International Conference.

Dr. Tracy said, “Despite our knowledge of the value of Pap testing for early detection of treatable cervical abnormalities, lesbians are one subset of women who are not getting screened at recommended rates.”

For the study, 3,000 self-identified U.S. lesbians were sent a survey online to determine cervical cancer screening practices and attitudes.

A total of 1,006 women returned a completed survey revealing that only 62 percent participated in routine screening.

The two most common reasons for not getting screened were lack of a physician’s referral (18 percent), and outright lack of a physician (17 percent).

Women who had told their primary care physician or gynecologist about their sexual orientation were 2-3 times more likely to participate in routine screening.

Women who were aware of the risk factors for cervical cancer were almost twice as likely to participate in routine screening.

Dr. Tracy said, “This study highlights an often overlooked cancer disparity. We know that human papillomavirus can be transmitted during same-sex sexual activity, so lesbians are at risk for developing cervical cancer.”

Study authors recommended that primary physicians communicate with these women to encourage routine screening.

This study was presented at the 11th Annual American Association for Cancer Research International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research from October 16-19, 2012 in Anaheim, California.

All research presented before publication in a peer-reviewed journal is considered preliminary.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Cancer Institute.

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Review Date: 
October 14, 2012
Last Updated:
October 17, 2012