Ten Things Lesbian and Bisexual Women Should Discuss with Their Healthcare Provider
1. Breast Cancer
Lesbians and bisexual women are more likely to have risk factors for breast cancer (including fewer full-term pregnancies, fewer mammograms, and being overweight) yet less likely to get screening exams. This combination means that lesbians may not be diagnosed early when the disease is most curable.
Lesbians may experience chronic stress from discrimination. This stress is worse for women who need to hide their orientation as well as for those who have lost important emotional support because of their orientation. Living with this stress can cause depression and anxiety.
3. Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Smoking and obesity are the biggest risk factors for heart disease among lesbians and bisexual women. All women need yearly medical exams for high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and diabetes. Health care providers can also offer tips on quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, and controlling weight.
4. Gynecological Cancer
The fact that women who have sex with women are less likely to take birth control (which has been shown to decrease risk of cancer), get pregnant or breastfeed, and have a higher Body Mass Index place them at higher risk for certain types of gynecological cancers compared to straight women. Having regular pelvic exams and pap tests can find cancers early and offer the best chance of cure.
Research shows that lesbians and bisexual women are more likely to be overweight or obese compared to heterosexual women. Obesity is associated with higher rates of heart disease, cancers, and premature death.
Research also shows that lesbians and bisexul women use tobacco more often than heterosexual women do. Smoking has been associated with higher rates of cancers, heart disease, and emphysema — three major causes of death among women.
Heavy drinking and binge drinking are more common among lesbians and bisexual women compared to their heterosexual counterparts. While one drink a day may be good for the heart, more than that can be raise your risk of cancer, liver disease and other health problems.
8. Substance Use
Lesbians and bisexual women may use drugs more often than heterosexual women. This can be due to stress from homophobia, sexism, and/or discrimination. Lesbians need support to find healthy ways to cope and reduce stress.
9. Intimate Partner Violence
Contrary to stereotypes, some women in same-sex relationships experience violence. However, health care providers do not ask lesbians and bisexual women about intimate partner violence as often as they ask heterosexual women.
10. Sexual Health
Lesbians and bisexual women can get the same sexually transmitted infections (STDs) as heterosexual women. It is important for sexually active women of every sexuality to be screened for STDs by a healthcare provider.
*Informed by statistics from the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (now known as Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality), PRIDE Institute of Minneapolis, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
**It should be noted that these health organizations neglected to include coming out to your doctor as a concern for women as they did for gay and bisexual men.
Be sure to check out these other Health features:
Rainbow Health Initiative: On the Way to Health Equality
Ten Things Gay and Bisexual Men Should Discuss with Their Healthcare Provider
Ten Things Transgender Persons Should Discuss with Their Healthcare Provider