It’s important to remember that these top ten lists are developed from data about health trends within a community as a whole; the issues may not relate to you in particular.
In this issue, we will look at three of the lesser known (and often overlooked) items on the lists. However, for your own information and education, the full lists are available on the sites noted at the end of this article.
Concern: Health History
Perhaps because of historic discrimination and risk of personal danger, trans individuals may hide important details of their health history from their medical providers. From the data available on transgender health, patterns in documented care show that even years after surgery many trans patients omit the history of their transition when seeing a new provider. This can result in dangerous health risks for the individual. Though all providers should be expected to provide compassionate and affirming care, patients should be selective in their care. Find providers who understand trans health care and needs and create a relationship with those providers for a lifetime of comprehensive health care.
Concern: Gynecological Cancer
For a variety of reasons—including lack of insurance, discomfort disclosing sexual history, no need for birth control or family planning—many lesbians do not get annual gynecological screenings, such as the Pap test. The Pap test recognizes infection, abnormal (unhealthy) cervical cells, or cervical cancer. Aside from cancers, lesbians and bisexual women should remember they are at risk for both spreading and being infected by STDs, including the human papillomavirus (HPV) which is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Routine gynecological exams will reduce both the health risks and the spread of STDs.
Gay Men/Bisexual Men
Concern: Anal Papilloma
The human papillomavirus (HPV)—which causes anal and genital warts—has been widely publicized as riskiest for women because of its link to cervical cancer. For men, it is often thought to be little more than an unsightly inconvenience. Increased rates of anal cancers in gay men have been linked to anal warts caused by HPV. Health professionals now recommend routine screening with anal Pap smears, similar to the test done for women to detect cervical cancers. Safer sex practices, routine screenings, and treatment are a must.
What should you do with this information?
Use it to educate your primary care provider—many don’t know the health concerns of the LGBT communities.
Use it for your benefit. Know the various health trends that are a part of our communities. But remember, sexual orientation or gender identity are not the causes the health issues on these lists. For example, simply being a man who has sex with men does not mean you are fated to be depressed. (After all, isn’t ‘gay’ a happy word, really?)