Do lesbians have to get Pap tests?
Are Pap tests optional or essential for lesbians? Here’s a hint… the answer could save your life.
My mother-in-law was recently at the clinic for a routine checkup. During the exam, her doctor struck up a conversation about how a lot of gay women don’t think they need to get Pap tests since they don’t sleep with men. He went on to say that this couldn’t be further from the truth. She was quick to relay this information to us for fear that we were among the majority of the lesbian population who are in the dark about this topic.
As it turns out, she was right to worry. While both Faith and I are avid about the health of our lady bits, the misconception that Pap tests are only necessary for straight women is putting a huge majority of the population at risk. Not too long ago, cervical cancer was the most common cause of female deaths in North America. While the risk today is certainly lower, this disease is still very prevalent. In fact, The American Cancer Society estimated that over 4,000 women would die of cervical cancer in 2018, and over 13,000 cases of invasive cervical cancer would be diagnosed. Those are significant numbers – and they can be greatly reduced with better education on the importance of regular Paps.
Pap tests enable doctors to catch cancer early on, or even recognize changes in the cervix before cancer develops in the first place. And let me be clear about something: all women can get cervical cancer. Unless of course you don’t have a cervix, in which case you can just stop reading this blog. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, bi, queer, etc. You can get cervical cancer, and therefore you most definitely should get Pap tests.
Because here’s the thing – cervical cancer isn’t caused by having sex with men. Sure, women who have human papillomavirus (HPV) are more likely to develop cervical cancer, and rates of HPV are highest among sexually active heterosexual females…but that’s not the only risk factor. Your family history also plays a role, as does your general health. If you smoke, for instance, you’re at a higher risk.
Also, for the record, lesbians can contract HPV, too. But that’s a blog for a different day. For now, schedule a Pap test with your doctor. It won’t be pleasant, but it could save your life.