New Survey Highlights Lack of Knowledge Around Cervical Screening for Lesbian and Bisexual Women

Publish Date: 25/06/2012


With cervical screening (or smears) saving 4,500 women’s lives per year it’s crucial that lesbian and bisexual (LB) women know that they are at risk of cervical cancer and feel empowered to attend a test.

The online survey which went live for the month of April and saw 232 respondents take part was part of The Lesbian & Gay Foundation’s (LGF) ‘Are You Ready For Your Screen Test?’  campaign.

Encouragingly 86% of respondents knew LB women need to attend cervical screening but there is still much work to be done as 40.5% of respondents had been told by someone (a friend, nurse, GP, family member etc) that they did not need a test.

The survey also highlighted that nearly a fifth of respondents had been discouraged or refused a screen test by a health professional.

“Half way through my test the nurse stopped because I was talking about my partner and it was clear she was a woman - she was really abrupt and said she didn't need to test me and asked me to get dressed. She made it very clear how she felt - it was so disempowering. I wanted to tell her she had no right, and that I should be tested, but I just felt so powerless. I'm at the same GP surgery so have never been back - can't face her again. I'm a very high powered and confident person ordinarily, but she just made me feel awful.”

Other respondents who had been refused a test commented“I was told that as a lesbian I was not sexually active”. Another said “one doctor and three nurses refused to screen me, despite me telling them I wanted to be screened. They said it was a waste of resources as lesbians can’t get cervical cancer”

Attitudes and ignorance of medical staff have a huge influence on testing behaviour with 45.7% of LB women of an eligible screening age said being told they didn’t need a test directly influenced their screening behaviour.

Annie Emery Head of Services said; “the survey results show there is significant work to be done to combat misinformation within the LGBT community, the general public and for medical staff around cervical screening for lesbian and bisexual women. There is still much confusion as to whether LB women need cervical screening tests – which as we know saves lives – and it’s crucial that we get the message out there”.

The “Are You Ready For Your Screen Test?” campaign aims to dispel the myths around lesbian and bisexual women and cervical screening, and raise awareness that lesbian and bisexual women do need regular cervical screening tests.  It began in the North West in 2010 and in April 2012 was rolled out nationally.

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