Health General Health Cancer Cervical screenings for lesbians and bi women If you have a cervix, it is important to be aware of the tests necessary to keep your body healthy. For many cisgender heterosexual women, getting regular cervical screenings is a no-brainer, especially since screenings are encouraged by their GPs. But many lesbian and bisexual women with cervixes don’t know that they need to go for cervical screenings – and are sometimes told they don’t need to, leaving them at higher risk for cervical cancer. According to The National LBG&T Partnership, 37% of lesbian and bisexual women in the North West had been told at some point that lesbian and bisexual women did not require cervical screening tests. Lesbian and bisexual women are also ten times less likely to have had a cervical screening in the last three years than heterosexual women. Trans men and non-binary people with cervixes are also at risk if they do not receive regular screenings, and it is just as important for them to receive cervical screenings as it is for cisgender women. What exactly is a cervical screening? A cervical screening is a test that monitors the health of your cervix, which is the opening between the uterus and the vaginal opening. As part of the screening, a collection of cervical cells is collected to be tested for abnormalities. Any abnormalities can be monitored or treated to prevent cervical cancer. People with cervixes between the ages of 25 and 64 need to attend regular cervical screenings. Generally speaking, people between the ages of 25 and 49 should be invited every 3 years, and people aged 50 to 65 should be invited every 5 years. This does vary by country within the UK, so check out this page from LGBT Foundation for more information. It is very unlikely for people under 25 years of age or over 65 years of age to get cervical cancer, but if you have concerns, talk to your GP. How will I be invited? You should receive a letter by post inviting you to book for a cervical screening. You can book the appointment by calling your GP surgery, or in some cases be able to go to a sexual health clinic instead. If you have not been sent a letter, call your GP surgery to ensure you receive the care you need. If you are told that you do not need a cervical screening test because of your identity, it is important to insist that you receive one anyway to prevent cervical cancer. If you have had a total hysterectomy, you will not need to receive cervical screenings. What are the symptoms of cervical cancer? It’s important to be aware of what cervical cancer might look like in case it develops in between cervical screening appointments. In the event that you notice these symptoms, contact your GP: · Bleeding between periods · Bleeding before and after sex · Bleeding after you have been through menopause · Unusual vaginal discharge What else do I need to know? The most important thing is to get the care you need to keep your body healthy. Regardless of your gender or sexuality, if you have a cervix, it is crucial to go for screenings when appropriate. Trans men and nonbinary people who have cervixes may not receive invitations through the national screening programme, so it is important that if you do not receive an invitation via post to advocate for your care through your GP. For more information on cervical screenings, visit the NHS page on cervical screenings. What Next? MORE READING If you would like to find more in depth information on cervical screenings, visit the NHS or the LGBT Foundation. For information about LBT Women’s Health Week, visit The National LBG&T Partnership. For more about gender identity, check out Being transgender, Being non-binary, and A-Z of gender identity. If you’re seeking sexual health information, check out Safe Sex and STIs - a guide for lesbians. SUPPORT If you would like to speak with someone about LGBTQ+ issues, call Switchboard at 0300 330 0630 between 10am-10pm, email [email protected], or access their web text chat here. If you would like to speak to someone about coming out, family problems, sexual health, or training for your company or provider, contact Support U at 0118 321 9111. LGBT Foundation offers support for a range of issues impacting LGBT people, including but not limited to hate crime, mental health, and gender identity. The helpline, 0345 3 30 30 30, is accessible from 10am to 6pm Monday through Friday. Check out our OutLife Forums for a safe and non-judgmental space where LGBTQ+ people can talk to one another about their issues and life experience.