The myth that lesbian and bisexual women cannot be exposed to cervical cancer may be responsible for poor screening indicators, according to the National Health Service (NHS).
The UK public health system indicated that up to 50,000 lesbian or bisexual people that identify as female, and which may have never received a cervical cancer screening test, believe that they do not belong to a risk population.
This figure is the result of an analysis by the LGBT Foundation data which revealed that nearly one in five (19%) LGBT women eligible for cervical screening have never sought screening. Yet, the NHS estimates that 83% of cervical cancers could be prevented if screenings were systematic.
Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) that affects the mouth, throat and genital area. It is transmitted through any type of sexual activity, whether oral, vaginal, anal or by simple contact between the genitals of partners or even by sharing sex toys. The majority of people with sexual activity contract this virus, while remaining asymptomatic.
Cervical cancer screening and HPV screening are the best ways to prevent cervical cancer. Professor Anne Mackie, Director of Programmes for the UK National Screening Committee, therefore wished to remind us that "women who have sex with women can still get HPV" and encourages "people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 to undergo regular cervical screening.”
Dr. Michael Brady is an NHS advisor on LGBT health issues. On June 29, during the “Pride in Medicine Day” hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine, he shared his concern about these numbers: "The misleading information that gay and bisexual women are not at risk of contracting this disease is one of the most dangerous myths there is, because it has created a screening gap for thousands of people, which is a major concern for our community. "His message is clear: "If you have a cervix, you can get cervical cancer.”
By 2020, the NHS aims to implement a new HPV screening process that is more sensitive and reliable than the current process and could prevent about 600 additional cancers per year.