Lesbian and bisexual women often told not to get critical cancer test

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Women who have sex with women are often told they don’t need a test which screens for almost all cervical cancers, LGBT groups have reported.

As a result, half of all eligible lesbians and bisexual women have never had a smear test for the human papilloma virus (HPV).

All women can contract HPV – which, like other sexually transmitted infections, is passed on through body fluids – and should therefore be offered cervical screenings regardless of sexuality.

The only women who don’t need the smear test are those who have never had sex.

Nearly 1,000 women die from cervical cancer every year.

The news comes at the beginning of the first ever National Lesbian & Bisexual Women’s Health week, created by The National LGB&T Partnership.

According to the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, around 3,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year.

The organisation said that “as HPV can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area, gay women are equally at risk of contracting HPV and experiencing abnormal cervical changes and, thus, should always attend when invited for cervical screening.”

In a study by Sheffield Hallam University, most women surveyed had been assumed to be straight by the health worker they consulted.

This led to less than half of lesbian and bisexual women receiving appropriate information and advice.

Another study by the University of Salford found that more than one in three lesbian and bisexual women questioned said they had been told they didn’t need a cervical screening test because of their sexuality.

One woman told the LGBT Foundation: “I have had GPs stare at me in silence when I said my partner was a woman.

“One GP told me she didn’t know what STIs I could get as a woman who was having sex with women.”

And yet another said that her GP “does not acknowledge my sexuality and assumes as I have children I identify as heterosexual.’

One woman said: “I was told I was greedy by a GP for being bi even though I’ve been with my partner for five-and-a-half years and we are due to get married.”