You are here

Doctors Are Discouraging Lesbians from Getting Pap Smears (and It's Not Okay)

Rainbowphoto/Getty Images

Today marks the first-ever National Lesbian and Bisexual Women's Health Week, spearheaded by the National LGB&T Partnership, a nonprofit group that aims to reduce health inequalities and improve access to health and social care for the LGBTQ population.

That's no small goal: Research published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association served as a sobering reminder of how far we still need to go to ensure the queer community receives equal access to medical treatment. Take, for example, the fact that compared to heterosexual women, lesbians have previously reported more instances of psychological distress, more than one chronic condition (such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes, or arthritis), heavy alcohol and cigarette use, and poor to fair overall health in the study. Likewise, bisexual women were also more likely to report chronic conditions and substance abuse.

"We know from prior research that being a member of a minority group, especially one that has a history of experiencing stigma and discrimination, can lead to chronic stress, which in turn can lead to poorer mental and physical health," said Carrie Henning-Smith, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.W., in Gay Community Has More Health Issues, Says New Study.

So with the onset of the inaugural National Lesbian and Bisexual Women's Health Week, it's especially important to keep Henning-Smith's observation at the forefront of your mind. The National LGBT Partnership has released a slew of data over the last decade or so that's been collected from research on the topic, much of which shined a light on the shocking differences in medical service the community as a whole receives. Take a 2011 study conducted at the University of Salford in the U.K., which found that 37 percent of lesbians and bisexual women had been told they didn't need to have a pap smear due to their sexual orientation. As a result, many of those women never pushed to have the screening because they were misinformed about their potential risk.

That's a big problem considering a pap test checks your cervix for abnormal cells that can turn into cervical cancer, and *any* woman can get cervical cancer, regardless of her sexual orientation. Being safe and well-informed is always better than feeling regretful for not speaking up sooner, so make your voice heard and get in on the action.  Follow #LBWomensHealthWeek17 on Twitter and check out the National LGBT Partnership's full briefing packet here.

Comments

Add a comment