Trans and non-binary people are being put off getting checks for cervical cancer due to discrimination, a charity has said.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said that people who do not identify as women but still have a cervix can face ‘barriers’ to accessing screening.
Anyone between ages 25 and 64 is eligible to have their cervix screened, but research has concluded that trans men and non-binary people who are less likely to be up-to-date with their cervical cancer screening than cisgender women.
Now a new study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, saw a small group of trans men and/or non-binary people polled about their experiences with cervical screening.
They were asked about the barriers and facilitators to cervical screening among other issues. Among the 137 respondents, 47% were eligible for cervical screening, yet only 58% of this group had ever been screened for cervical cancer.
The study comes following an apparent drive for inclusion within the NHS which sparked controversy earlier this year when a hospital told staff to use terms like ‘birthing parents’ and ‘human milk’ rather than ‘mothers’ and ‘breast milk’.
In February Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust unveiled a blizzard of ‘gender inclusive’ phrases in a drive to stamp out ‘mainstream transphobia’.
Other changes included substituting the use of the word ‘woman’ with the phrase ‘woman or person’, and the term ‘father’ with ‘parent’, ‘co-parent’ or ‘second biological parent’, depending on the circumstances.
The NHS also drew fire in early 2021 for implying men can get pregnant in the wording of a page on its website.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said that people who do not identify as women but still have a cervix can face ‘barriers’ to accessing screening
The health service’s ‘Trying to get pregnant’ stated: ‘Eight in 10 people under 40 years old will get pregnant within one year of trying by having regular sex without using contraception.’
The wording sparked a lively debate on social media.
Fury at hospital’s order to midwives to say ‘chestfeeding’ so transgender people are not offended
A hospital which told staff to use terms such as ‘birthing parents’ and ‘human milk’ rather than ‘mothers’ and ‘breast milk’.
In February this year Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust revealed its suggested ‘gender inclusive’ phrases in a drive to eradicate ‘mainstream transphobia’.
Other changes include replacing the use of the word ‘woman’ with the phrase ‘woman or person’, and the term ‘father’ with ‘parent’, ‘co-parent’ or ‘second biological parent’, depending on the circumstances.
But it led to a backlash from critics today who have hit out at the new terminology, branding it ‘utter nonsense’.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust was the first in the country to formally implement such a radical overhaul for its maternity services department – which will now be known as ‘perinatal services’.
Now participants of the new study described a number of barriers to care including experienced or anticipated stigma and discrimination and poor understanding of trans-health among healthcare providers.
Some said that having a male ‘marker’ in their GP record meant that they were unable to access routine calls for screening.
And a number reported they had been ‘discouraged’ from attending cervical screening because of their gender identity, with one person saying they had been turned away.
Other reasons for not attending included how others may react to their gender identity, facing difficult questions and the disclosure of gender identity.
Many said that they has ‘insufficient information’ about the process and what it might mean for them.
Participants said they they would prefer to attend screening at a trans-specific health clinic with a small number of participants saying they would prefer to self-test at home.
The authors wrote: ‘This study indicates that TMNB (transgender men and non-binary people assigned female at birth) lack sufficient information about cervical screening, and experience barriers to accessing screening services at personal, interpersonal, and institutional levels.
‘Cervical screening uptake could be increased by adopting TMNB-appropriate screening invitations, providing options for self-sampling, improving cultural sensitivity in health literature, and improving access to trans-specific or trans-aware health services.’
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has guidance on cervical screening for trans men and/or non-binary people as well as professionals providing care.
Commenting on the research, Rebecca Shoosmith, acting chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: ‘Accessing cervical screening can be difficult for many people.
‘This can be exacerbated for trans men and/or non-binary people with a cervix who face many barriers to accessing routine cervical screening, as well as discrimination because of their gender identity.
‘Just as cervical cancer does not discriminate, cervical screening shouldn’t either.’
Between 2015 and 2017 there were 3,152 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK (CRUK).
Data from England show that around half (51%) of people diagnosed survive for at least 10 years after their diagnosis.
And between 2016 and 2018, 854 people died from the disease in the UK, according to CRUK.