Transgender patients less likely to be screened for cancer: study

Researchers say health workers need to address the disparity

Transgender patients are less likely to be screened for cancers specific to their physical gender at birth, suggest researchers, saying practitioners need to address the health-care disparity affecting this often marginalized population.

In a study by St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, researchers assessed screening rates for cervical, breast, and colorectal cancer among 120 transgender patients eligible for the routine testing and compared them with rates among non-transgender patients seen by the family health team.

“We found that people who were trans had lower screening rates in our practice,” said Dr. Tara Kiran, a family doctor and the study’s principal investigator.

Transgender patients were about 70 percent less likely to be screened for breast cancer, 60 per cent less likely to get tested for cervical cancer, and 50 percent less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer — even after accounting for such other factors as age and the number of visits to their doctors.

READ MORE: B.C. to offer gender-affirming surgeries for transgender people

Patients who have transitioned from female to male and still require screening for breast and cervical cancer are often missed when provincial agencies such as Cancer Care Ontario send reminders that regular mammograms or Pap smears are due.

For trans patients requiring regular mammograms, the study found just one-third were screened, compared to two-thirds of non-transgender, or cisgender, patients. For cervical cancer, 56 per cent of trans patients had Pap tests compared to 72 per cent of non-trans patients.

READ MORE: Transgender Canadians say death certificates don’t reflect their lived identity

Among the 120 transgender patients included in the study, published Wednesday in the journal Canadian Family Physician, 76 per cent were physically female at birth but self-identified as male.

“If you are transitioned from female to male — but you still have a cervix, you haven’t had a hysterectomy — having a Pap test is an important part of screening for cervical cancer,” said Kiran. “But it also can really be gender dysphoric.

“If you can imagine, you are now identifying as a male but you are being asked to come in to do a procedure that’s really done for women. And so you’re being reminded of the fact there’s anatomy there that doesn’t relate to you being a man.

Cat MacDonald of Ajax, Ont., near Toronto, was born male but came to the realization at about age five that inside she was really girl. She didn’t do anything about it until the 1990s, when she began transitioning to female, which included taking a testosterone blocker and starting on lifelong doses of estrogen.

Taking the female hormone means MacDonald needs regular mammograms, as estrogen can lead to breast tissue growth that is potentially subject to malignancy. But at the same time, she needs regular testing for prostate cancer.

“There are still certain kinds of cancer that are more common in males that have to be screened for,” she said. “I’m fortunate that my health-care giver is very well-versed in trans medicine. She is aware of these and screens for it.”

It’s critical that health providers be better trained to provide sensitive, quality care to transgender patients, said MacDonald, 74. “So doctors have to become aware that this is specialized care.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Three projects on the North Coast awarded funding

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Hagensborg Water District purchases new fire truck; prepares for conversion to CCRD

Approximately $1.3 million of the district’s infrastructure grant has been transferred to the CCRD.

Nuxalk Nation receives over $4 million in funding for Big House

The funding is joint federal, provincial and municipal and will support 24 infrastructure projects

Horgan says B.C. restart making gains as more people come out of their homes

B.C. announced the easing of more restrictions on businesses, recreation and travel last month

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Limit police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities: Justice Summit

Grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Large rogue floating ‘island’ corralled by Lac la Hache residents

At least 60 feet wide, this large mass of plants is free-floating on the lake

B.C. ports part of data integration project to protect marine ecosystems

The $1.2 M federally funded program will draw crucial baseline data from Canada’s three coastlines

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Most Read