According to researchers, lesbians may be at a higher risk of cervical cancer because they get fewer screenings than heterosexual women. The fewer screenings may be due in part to doctors’ incorrect assumption about their sexual history.
Almost 8 of every 100,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year.
The researchers from the University of Washington released their findings on Tuesday.
Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are attributable to an HPV infection. However, healthcare providers usually do not encourage lesbian patients to get regular HPV screenings.
HPV is most commonly transmitted during heterosexual sex and doctors tend to wrongly assume that lesbians have only had sex with other women. This assumption is despite studies that have found most lesbians and their partners have had sex with men.
Researchers also found that a lack of testing occurs because lesbian sometimes lack insurance or do not always have a need for pregnancy prevention checkups, or may not want to disclose their sexual orientation and history with their doctors.
Experts urge that in order to reduce the rates of cervical cancer in lesbians health providers should be asking unbiased questions such as “Do you have sex with men, women or both.
Ob-gyns should provide the same gynecologic health care to lesbians and bisexual omen as they do to heterosexual women, including Pap tests.
Researchers were unable to quantify the overall rats of cervical cancer among lesbians compared with heterosexual women simply because cancer patients are rarely asked their sexual orientation.
Screening every 3 years can detect abnormal cervical cells and pre-cancerous lesions in women between 21 and 65. However, lesbians are screened between 5% and 18% less than heterosexual women because of the perceived lack of risk exposure.
HPV can be transmitted between women partners through both skin-to-skin contact and contact with sex toys.