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Cervical Screening Saves Lives - Why it is Important for LBT People to Access Screening

Published: 05 March 2019 Tags: NHS, cancer, cervical, PHE, LGB&T Partnership By Joe Nellist

Today Public Health England (PHE) launched a major new national campaign, ‘Cervical Screening Saves Lives’, to increase the number of people attending cervical screening. We are working alongside PHE and The National LGB&T Partnership to ensure that LBT people remain at the heart of the campaign and the message is clear - everyone with a cervix, which is most women and many trans men who have not had a hysterectomy, between the ages of 25 and 64 are eligible and should attend cervical screening.

Emma Meehan, Assistant Director Public Affairs at LGBT Foundation said:There can be confusion or misinformation amongst LBT communities around the need to attend cervical screening and it’s costing lives.It’s so important all people with a cervix understand they are at risk of cervical cancer and eligible for screening so we’d urge anyone to take up their invitation when received.Anyone concerned if they haven’t received a letter should talk to a healthcare professional.”

Cervical screening rates have fallen to a 20-year low, and lesbian and bisexual women are up to 10 times less likely to have had a cervical screening test in the past three years than heterosexual women. There is a misconception that lesbian and bisexual women don't need to attend screening because they don't have sex with men.However, human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the vast majority of cases of cervical cancer, is a common virus that is passed on through body fluids. This means it can be transmitted through oral sex, transferring vaginal fluids on hands and fingers, or sharing sex toys. It’s therefore important for lesbian and bisexual women to attend their cervical screenings when invited as they are still at risk of cervical cancer.

Writer, Kate Davies, said: “I was often told when I was younger that I didn’t need to go for a smear test as I don’t have sex with men so I wasn’t at risk.Luckily I did my own research and talked to my GP and learned that’s not true.Now I always make sure I go for my cervical screening when invited and I encourage my wife, friends and family to do the same.I know some people can be embarrassed or find it awkward, but it really does only takes a few minutes and can save a life so for me it’s a simple decision.”

Importantly, the campaign also encourages trans men and non-binary people to get screened and in particular, remind trans men aged 25 to 64 who are registered with a GP as male, that they are eligible for screening if they still have a cervix but they won’t be invited for cervical screening. For those taking long-term testosterone it is advised that they speak to the nurse taking the test as they can help find ways to screening more comfortable.

The new ‘Cervical Screening Saves Lives’ campaign provides practical information about how to make the test more comfortable and gives reassurance to people, who may be fearful of finding out they have cancer, that screening is not a test for cancer. Regular screening, which only takes a few minutes, can help stop cervical cancer before it starts, as the test identifies potentially harmful cells before they become cancerous and ensures people get the right treatment as soon as possible.

For further information about cervical screening, please click here