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Why is cancer screening important?

Evidence shows that people in LGBTIQA+ communities have lower cancer screening participation rates than the general population, particularly for cervical screening.

Finding cancer early is important for everybody. The earlier a cancer is found, the more likely that treatment will be successful.

Australia has three national cancer screening programs to find early signs of bowel, breast and cervical cancer. The programs use simple tests that are free for eligible people. The tests are for people who do not have signs of cancer. If you have unusual signs or symptoms, see your doctor.

Get to know your body

Finding cervical cancer early

Cancer Council SA recommends that everybody with a cervix do a 5-yearly Cervical Screening Test from the age of 25. It is the best way to prevent or find early signs of cervical cancer. You can do a Cervical Screening Test at a medical clinic or sexual health clinic.

You can now choose how you would like to do the test. The doctor or nurse can do the test for you, or you can ask to do the test yourself (self-collection). Self-collection involves using a long-handled cotton swab to take a sample of fluid from the vagina / front hole.

Both options are equally safe and effective at finding early signs of cervical cancer.

The test is free, but there may be a cost for the appointment. You might prefer to see a gender affirming doctor.

Find a gender affirming doctor

Find out more about self-collection

In partnership with Shine SA and members of the community, funded by Preventive Health SA, Cancer Council SA have developed videos to support cervical screening in transgender and gender diverse communities. The videos share information and tips on making a cervical screening appointment safe and comfortable, spoken by people who have had the test before.

Finding breast cancer early

BreastScreen SA provides free mammograms every two years for cis women and trans and gender diverse people aged 40 and over, especially those aged 50-74, who have a Medicare card. Make an appointment by calling 13 20 50. You can also book online by visiting their website. All the staff at BreastScreen SA are women.

It is recommended that women and trans women who have been on hormones (oestrogen) for more than 5 years, aged 50-74, have a mammogram every two years.

AFAB gender diverse and trans folk with breasts who have not had top surgery should be screening every two years from the age of 40, especially those aged 50-74. If you have had top surgery, talk to your doctor about your personal risk and screening options.

If you are masc-presenting, we recommend talking to your doctor about screening so you can discuss your personal risk of breast / chest cancer and screening options.

Find a gender affirming doctor

More information about breast screening for transgender and gender diverse people here.

If you are younger that 40, you will not be eligible for a free mammogram with BreastScreen SA. If you are worried about your risk of breast / chest cancer, speak with your doctor. It is also important to tell your doctor if you have a family history of breast, prostate, or ovarian cancer.

We recommend that you regularly check your breast / chest for changes to the tissue or the nipple including a lump, changes to the skin such as redness, dimpling or puckering, changes to the nipple such as discharge or nipple inversion (nipple turns inwards) or pain that persists and isn’t related to your menstrual cycle.

Finding bowel cancer early

Bowel cancer is one of the most diagnosed cancers in Australia. If found early, more than 90 per cent of bowel cancers can be successfully treated. The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program provides free bowel screening test kits for all Australians aged 50-74. The test kit is mailed to your home every two years. It is easy to do and private. If your kit was lost or damaged, or has expired, order a new one online.

Order a new bowel screening test kit

If you are younger than 50 or older than 75, you will not be eligible for a free home test kit from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Speak to your doctor if you are worried about your bowel cancer risk, or if you have a family history of bowel cancer. You can also purchase a bowel cancer test kit from a pharmacy for around $40.

More information about bowel screening for LGBTIQA+  here.

How can health professionals increase cancer screening among LGBTIQA+ communities?

Healthcare professionals who provide cancer screening services or support can adopt welcoming and safe health care practices to create environments where every patient feels affirmed, validated and free from judgment.

This can include:

  • Displaying the rainbow flag and transgender flag.
  • Displaying LGBTQ+ images and logos.
  • Providing gender-neutral bathrooms.
  • Provision of LGBTQ+ inclusive resources and support.
  • Asking patients their pronouns and gender assigned at birth to encourage appropriate screening recommendations.
  • Promote self-collection option for the Cervical Screening Test as an option for overcoming many of the physical and psychological barriers to screening faced by LGBTQ+ people with a cervix.
  • Read an inclusive-language guide on how to use language respectfully and inclusively when working with and referring to LGBTQ+ people. Here’s one from the Victorian government.
  • Consider undertaking training to increase your organisations inclusivity, and better understand the needs of your patients and clients. Shine SA provides a range of training to suit your needs.

In partnership with Shine SA and members of the community, funded by Preventive Health SA, Cancer Council SA have developed videos to support cervical screening in transgender and gender diverse communities. The videos share information and tips for health professionals on making a cervical screening appointment safe and comfortable, spoken by people who have had the test before.

Resources for LGBTIQA+ communities

https://www.cancersa.org.au/uploads/Prevention/LGBTIQA+ Cervical Screening Postcard

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LGBTQI+ People and Cancer

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