More must be done to ensure that transgender and non-binary people are not put off getting checks for cervical cancer due to discrimination, a charity has said.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said that trans men and non-binary people with a cervix can face “barriers” to accessing screening.
The comments come as a new study on screening concluded 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, which includes many trans men and/or non-binary people, but previous research has concluded that trans men and non-binary people assigned female at birth are less likely to be up-to-date with their cervical cancer screening.
The 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.
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 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.