The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s (GLMA) healthcare providers have identified the following issues as the most commonly of concern for lesbians.
Lesbians are less likely to receive screening exams, but more likely to have risks for breast cancer. This means they are at risk for not being diagnosed when the disease is most curable.
Due to discrimination, many lesbians may experience chronic stress, especially when they need to hide their orientation or have lost important emotional support because of it. This can cause anxiety and depression.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women. Obesity and smoking are the biggest risk factors for heart disease among lesbians. It’s important for all lesbians to receive medical exams each year for cholesterol problems, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Tips can be provided about smoking cessation, weight control and increasing physical activity.
Compared to heterosexual women, lesbians have higher risks of certain types gynecological cancers. In order to find cancers early and have the best chance for a cure, it’s important to have regular Pap tests and pelvic exams.
According to research, lesbians are more likely to be obese or overweight. Obesity is associated with higher rates of cancers, heart disease and premature death. It is important for lesbians to have supportive and competent advice about living a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise and diet.
Smoking has been associated with higher rates of heart disease, emphysema and cancers which are three major causes of death among women. Research shows that lesbians use tobacco more than heterosexual women do.
Heavy drinking and binge drinking are more common among lesbians compared to other women. While one drink a day may be good for the heart, more than that can raise your risk of cancer, liver disease and other health problems.
Perhaps due to stress from sexism, homophobia and/or discrimination, lesbians may use drugs more frequently than heterosexual women. They need support and help finding healthy ways to reduce stress and cope.
Intimate Partner Violence
Health care providers fail to ask lesbians about intimate partner violence as much as they ask heterosexual women. Lesbians sometimes experience domestic partner violence and need to be questioned and have access to counseling and shelters, if needed.
It’s important for lesbians to be screened for STDs by a healthcare provider, just as heterosexual women would be. They can get the same infections as any other woman, are able to give each other STDs by skin-to-skin contact, vaginal fluids, mucous membrane contact and menstrual blood.