Cervical cancer risk for lesbians

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LESBIANS may be at higher risk of cervical cancer because they get fewer screenings than heterosexual women, researchers said.

Part of the problem is doctors making incorrect assumptions. Although nearly all cases of cervical cancer are attributable to a human papillomavirus or HPV infection, healthcare providers often do not encourage lesbian patients to get regular screenings, the researchers found.

That is because the disease is most commonly transmitted during heterosexual sex and doctors might wrongly assume lesbians have only had sex with other women, despite studies that have found most lesbians and their partners have had sex with men.

A lack of testing can occur at times because lesbians lack insurance or do not always have a need for pregnancy prevention check-ups, or might not want to share their sexual orientation with doctors, the researchers said.

University of Washington School of Nursing professor Joachim Voss said: “If we are serious about reducing the rates of cervical cancer in lesbians, an unbiased health assessment by a provider must ask the question: ‘Do you have sex with men, women or both?’”

— Reuters