Do transgender women need breast cancer screenings?
Public Health England has published a guide for transgender people who are unsure about whether they need to undergo health screenings.
The leaflet, released today, aims to tackle uncertainty over when transgender people need to consider breast cancer screenings and cervical cancer screenings.
The guide explains that transgender men are recommended to consider having breast screening if they have not had chest reconstruction (top surgery) or still have breast tissue.
It adds that contrary to popular belief, transgender women who have been on long-term hormone therapy should also consider breast screenings, as they have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast screening is a free NHS test that is carried out at breast screening centres and at mobile breast screening units across England.
Breast screening can find cancers when they are too small to see or feel. Finding and treating cancer early gives you the best chance of survival.
Meanwhile, advice for cervical screenings (smear tests) is also different for transgender people.
Trans women who are registered with their doctors as females may be routinely invited for cervical screening, but do not need to be screened as they do not have a cervix.
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The advice for transgender men adds: “If you have not had a total hysterectomy and still have a cervix, you should still consider having cervical screening. This is especially important if you have had any abnormal cervical screening results in the past.”
Cervical screening aims to prevent cancer from developing in the cervix (neck of the womb).
It is important to go for screening as finding changes before they become cancer gives you the best chance of successful treatment.
Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common virus – most people will be infected with it at some point in their life. It can be passed on through any type of sexual activity.
Public Health England explained: “We aim to make screening accessible and inclusive for all eligible populations.
“For people who are trans (transgender) or non-binary (any gender that is not exclusively male or female), inequalities may exist because individuals do not know which screening programmes they are eligible for, or are not invited for screening because of the gender they are registered as with their GP.
“For example, individuals registered as male may not be called for female specific cervical and breast screening, even though they might benefit from it.”.