Clinicians need to do more in tackling health concerns for gay and bisexual women, the Lesbian and Gay Foundation has recommended in a new study.
The report, Beyond Babies and Breast Cancer, has been produced following a large-scale review of over 70 pieces of research from Britain and across the globe.
It found that lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to report negative experiences of healthcare than either gay and bisexual men or heterosexual women.
Both lesbian and bisexual women are more likely than heterosexual women to suffer ill health or long-standing health conditions. Bisexual women seem particularly at risk.
The report notes that rates of drinking, smoking and illicit drug use among lesbian and bisexual women are markedly higher than for heterosexual women.
Evidence suggests that lesbians are at a slightly increased risk of breast cancer due to lifestyle factors. Despite this, there is very little information and support aimed at lesbian and bisexual women with cancer.
A significant percentage of women who have sex with women (WSW) that attend GUM clinics receive a diagnosis and WSW who attend GUM clinics are more likely than women who have sex with men to be diagnosed with new or existing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and with other conditions.
Almost all WSW engage in sexual practices which could result in the transmission of STIs yet most lesbian and bisexual women report that it is difficult to find relevant sexual health information.
The report also notes lesbian and bisexual women are more likely than heterosexual women to suffer mental ill-health, with prevalence particularly high amongst bisexual women.
The report makes five clear over-arching recommendations for healthcare professionals. They include communicating in a non-discriminatory way and making sure sexual orientation is included in monitoring data.
A specific requirement to include lesbian and bisexual women’s needs in mainstream health information services, targeting lesbian and bisexual women with specific health information and developing specialist health and support services is also suggested.