Cervical cancer virus can be transmitted in same sex relationships
lgf.org.uk, 20 Jan 2010
A new report has busted the myth that cervical screening is only necessary for heterosexual women, and recommends that health professionals need to do more to raise awareness among the lesbian community that women in same sex relationships are at risk, and need to get regular screenings for cervical cancer.
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that is present in almost 100% of cervical cancer cases can be transmitted in same sex relationships, according to a new report.
The report was published by Dr Julie Fish from De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester and has been used as part of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme 2009 Annual Review
Historically it was believed that the HPV virus could only be transmitted through heterosexual relationships, leading to the incorrect assumption that lesbian women are not at risk from cervical cancer and do not need to be screened.
Although some lesbians may never have had a relationship with a man, there is a strong chance a partner may have.
Research shows that 80 per cent of lesbians have had a sexual relationship with a man at some stage in their life.
Any exchange of bodily fluids can pass the HPV between two people, so a woman could contract the infection from her partner.
Dr Fish’s research also unveiled evidence of lesbians feeling discouraged from cervical screening by GPs and practice nurses.
She said: “Some lesbian women have said they feel discouraged from being screened because they are asked questions such as how regularly they have sex with their husband or boyfriend or whether they use contraception with them.
“Such discourse conveys the assumption that cervical screening is only necessary for heterosexual women.”
Samantha Days, Services Manager for the Lesbian & Gay Foundation, said: “We take quite a few inquiries about cervical cancer, particularly since Jade Goody’s battle with the disease.
“We always encourage callers to go and be screened, and also suggest they challenge doctors or nurses who imply that it isn’t necessary.”
The NHS Constitution states ‘You have the right to access NHS services. You will not be refused access on unreasonable grounds’ and ‘You have the right not to be unlawfully discriminated against in the provision of NHS services including on grounds of gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability (including learning disability or mental illness) or age’.
Also, under the Provision of Goods and Services Act, it is illegal for lesbian and bisexual women to be denied access to screening services on the grounds of their sexuality.
As a result of her findings Dr Fish is now calling for much clearer information to be made available to lesbians and healthcare staff.
Currently, on the NHS cervical screening website, the advice to women still reads: "But if a woman has never been sexually active with a man, then the research evidence shows that her chance of developing cervical cancer is very low indeed. We do not say no risk, only very low risk. In these circumstances, a woman might choose to decline the invitation for cervical screening on this occasion."
However, the new report - which is the most up-to-date research - highlights that even if a woman has not been sexually active with a man, if her female partner has, then she could be at risk from contracting HPV from her partner.
Professor Julietta Patnick CBE, Director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programme, said: “This report represents an important and very useful step in our efforts to tackle inequalities in screening uptake.
“A clearer understanding of the transmission routes of HPV is crucial in helping to encourage all eligible women to accept screening invitations, enabling the programme to continue and improve its valuable work in detecting cancer early.
“As a result of Dr Fish’s work the NHS Cancer Screening Programme has now produced the first national screening leaflet for lesbians.”
Dr Fish added: “I am very pleased to have worked with the NHS Cancer Screening Programme on such an important issue. Results from last year’s National Cancer Equalities Initiatives survey made it apparent that lesbians have been a poorly represented group.
“It is a very important issue because lesbian women have died from cervical cancer in the past but I now hope that now this group of women will receive the information and care they need.”
GPs recommend that women between the ages of 25 and 64 have a cervical smear test every 3-5 years. If you are registered with a GP, then you should get an automatic reminder of when your next test is due. If you are over 25 and have never had a smear test, then it's recommended that you get in touch with your GP.
It's estimated that screening for cervical cancer saves upto 6000 lives every year, so be sure, be safe and get tested!

Δεν υπάρχουν σχόλια: