Trans people face ‘many barriers’ to routine cervical cancer screening, says charity

Anyone with a cervix between ages 25 and 64 is eligible for cervical screening

More must be done to ensure that transgender and non-binary people are not discouraged from getting cervical cancer checks due to discrimination, a charity has said.

A new study on screening - 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, and the barriers and facilitators to cervical screening among other issues.

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Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said that some may face “barriers” to accessing screening, with the study finding that more can be done to improve cervical screening uptake and experience for trans men and non-binary who were assigned female at birth.

Anyone with a cervix between ages 25 and 64 is eligible for cervical screening (Photo: Shutterstock)

‘Experience barriers to accessing screening services at personal, interpersonal, and institutional levels’

Anyone with a cervix between ages 25 and 64 is eligible for cervical screening, but among the study’s 137 respondents, 47 per cent were eligible for cervical screening, yet only 58 per cent of this group had ever been screened for cervical cancer.

Participants 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 cervical cancer screening.

A number of people also 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 cervical cancer screening included concerns about how others may react to their gender identity, the prospect of facing difficult questions and the disclosure of gender identity.

Many said that they had “insufficient information” about the process and what it might mean for them, with some saying they would prefer to attend screening at a trans-specific health clinic.

A small number of participants also said 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.”

‘Just as cervical cancer does not discriminate, cervical screening shouldn’t either’

Rebecca Shoosmith, acting chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust - which offers guidance on cervical screening for trans men and/or non-binary people - said that “accessing cervical screening can be difficult for many people.”

However, she added that 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,” Ms Shoosmith said.