Myth that lesbian, gay and bisexual women can’t get HPV is WRONG, NHS warns as it urges ‘everyone with a cervix’ to go to life-saving screening appointments
- Homosexual women may be skipping screening ‘because they think they’re safe’
- But the NHS has warned ‘cancer does not discriminate’ based on sexuality
- Everyone with a cervix should go to the routine screening appointments
Women are putting their lives at risk because of a false belief they won’t get HPV if they don’t have sex with men, the NHS has warned.
Thousands of lesbian, gay and bisexual women are skipping cervical screening tests and the health service is concerned it’s because they don’t think they’re at risk.
In a survey it found homosexual women are almost twice as likely to have never attended a screening than the national average.
The common virus causes almost all cases of cervical cancer and both HPV and cancer affect ‘anyone with a cervix’, top doctors say.
If all eligible women went to their screening appointments, to which they’re invited at least every three years, four out of five cases of the cancer could be avoided.
A survey by the NHS found lesbian, gay and bisexual women are almost twice as likely to have never been to a cervical screening appointment than the national average (stock image)
‘The misleading information that gay and bisexual women aren’t at risk of this disease is one of the most dangerous myths around,’ said Dr Michael Brady, the NHS’s advisor for LGBT health.
‘It has created a screening gap for thousands, which is a major concern for our community.
‘Let’s be clear: cancer does not discriminate.
‘If you’ve got a cervix, you can get cervical cancer, and as cervical cancer is preventable people should take up their regular screening appointments.’
WHAT IS HPV? THE INFECTION LINKED TO 99% OF CERVICAL CANCER AND 91% OF ANAL CANCER CASES
Up to eight out of 10 people will be infected with HPV in their lives
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body.
Spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex and skin-to-skin contact between genitals, it is extremely common.
Up to eight out of 10 people will be infected with the virus at some point in their lives.
There are more than 100 types of HPV. Around 30 of which can affect the genital area. Genital HPV infections are common and highly contagious.
Many people never show symptoms, as they can arise years after infection, and the majority of cases go away without treatment.
It can lead to genital warts, and is also known to cause cervical cancer by creating an abnormal tissue growth.
Annually, an average of 38,000 cases of HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the US, 3,100 cases of cervical cancer in the UK and around 2,000 other cancers in men.
HPV can also cause cancers of the throat, neck, tongue, tonsils, vulva, vagina, penis or anus. It can take years for cancer to develop.
The NHS has given its warning ahead of Pride Week and its experts claim the rumour is widespread among homosexual women.
Figures show 19 per cent of lesbian, gay or bi women – thought to be as many as 50,000 – have never been to a cervical screening.
This compares to just an average of just 10.9 per cent of women in the general population last year – out of a total of more than 4.4million.
Only around 71 per cent of the more than four million women invited to the lifesaving appointments last year actually went.
The 10-minute screening tests involve taking a sample of cells from a woman’s cervix – the connection between the vaginal canal and the womb.
These are then examined for signs of any abnormalities which may lead to cervical cancer in the future. If there are signs, preventative treatment may be given.
Human papillomavirus (HPV), the culprit for most of the cancers, infects most people at some stage in their life and is harmless in the vast majority of cases.
‘Women who have sex with women can still get HPV during sex,’ said Professor Anne Mackie, Public Health England’s director of screening.
‘We encourage anyone with a cervix, between the ages of 25 and 64, to go for regular cervical screening.’
HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact and can also spread through the mouth, not only by penetrative sex.
Scientists this week predicted cervical cancer could be wiped out within the next few decades in the UK because the HPV vaccine is proving so effective.
A major study looking at screening programmes involving 60million people in 14 countries found levels of the two strands of HPV that are mainly responsible for the cancer fell 83 per cent in girls aged 13 to 19 after five to eight years of vaccination.
They also fell 66 per cent in women aged 20 to 24, according to results published in The Lancet medical journal.
A Stonewall spokesperson said: ‘There are lots of misconceptions about the health needs of LGBT people.
‘We also know that there are wider barriers for LGBT people in accessing healthcare, our 2018 Health Report found that one in seven (14 per cent) LGBT people reported that they avoid seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination.
‘It’s absolutely vital that LGBT people receive accurate information through education, as well as being supported by a healthcare system which understands their needs.’