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At Jo’s, our vision is a world without cervical cancer. It’s both exciting and incredibly motivating. A huge part of making this happen is cervical screening (smear tests). The test which prevents the majority of cases of cervical cancer from ever starting.
We want everyone who is eligible for cervical screening to understand what it is and to be able to access it. The barriers to attendance are multiple, and supporting people to overcome them is a significant part of working towards our vision.
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.
Anyone who has a cervix is at risk of getting cervical cancer. While most people who have a cervix are women, some trans men and non-binary people also have a cervix. We conducted research with the Gender Identity Clinic (Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust), 56 Dean Street and LGBT Foundation to better understand the experiences trans and non-binary people had with cervical screening. The findings made it overwhelmingly clear that more support was needed. The research findings will be published soon – a manuscript is currently under review.
Today we are launching new information for trans men and / or non-binary people who have a cervix and the healthcare professionals who support them. Further research will be published soon – so watch this space!
Accessing healthcare can be challenging for many trans and non-binary people, particularly if there is a lack of understanding or sensitivity among healthcare professionals. With cervical screening, there are more specific issues presented, this can include hormone therapy which can make the test physically harder, potential feelings of dysphoria during or after the test causing distress, and systematic barriers in accessing the test in the first place. Only people registered with their GP as female get automatically invited to cervical screening, which means people who have changed their gender marker will not get an invitation and instead will need to remember or be supported to book a test. Our information provides tips on how to book a test and ways to make it more comfortable.
The role of the sample taker and other staff is especially important. They may be the difference between someone feeling able to go to cervical screening or not attending. Our resources for health professionals cover practical tips to create a safe environment, information about language use and terminology, and ways to overcome samples being rejected when they reach laboratories.
Ultimately, we want everyone eligible for cervical screening to feel safe and able to access the care they need. A big part of this is feeling included and represented in dialogue about screening, which can help people to understand its relevance to them. Our new information is specifically for trans men and/or non-binary people with a cervix, so we do not use the word woman in this piece of work. This is simply because it does not apply when talking to the trans and/or non-binary community.
Our aim is that these new resources, as well as the support we can offer the community though our support services, will enable more trans men and non-binary people to make an informed decision about cervical screening and, if they choose to attend, have as positive an experience as possible. Just as cervical cancer does not discriminate, cervical screening shouldn’t either.