Start the conversation: Lesbian/Bisexual women

By : Jeremy Williams
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How often should you see your primary care physician? What health screenings, evaluations and/or vaccinations should you have? Should you be on any medications? Don’t ask us! We aren’t real doctors, we only occasionally play one on TV.

Just like every fingerprint, snowflake and social media opinion; each person’s individual health concerns are varied and different. That’s why the only effective healthy game plan for you is one that is constructed between you and your doctor.

Below are health issues and concerns that, based on CDC and GLMA recommendations, are good questions to start off the conversation with your healthcare team. We have arranged it so lesbian and bisexual women can cut out this section and take it with them to their next doctor’s appointment.

Health screenings:

If you smoke, speak with your doctor about smoking cessation programs and/or medications. Also, ask about a lung screening to check for adverse effects from smoking, even if you are a former smoker. Tobacco-related health problems can include lung disease, heart disease, high blood pressure and a whole host of other serious problems.

If your blood pressure is normal (less than 120/80), have it checked at least every two years – or more frequently if recommended by your doctor or if you have a family history of high blood pressure. Smoking, frequent alcohol use and/or being overweight can cause high blood pressure.

Cancer screenings:

Lesbians and bisexual women are more likely to have risk factors for breast cancer. Along with having a family history of breast cancer, other factors that increase your risk include being overweight, excessive use of alcohol and women who have not had children and haven’t breastfed. The American Cancer Society recommends an annual breast cancer screening with mammograms starting at age 45, with the choice to start as early as age 40. Lesbian and bisexual women should have annual clinical breast exams starting at age 20. They should also begin monthly self-examinations at age 20 as well.

Lesbians and bisexual women have higher risks for certain types of gynecological (GYN) cancers compared to straight women. It is recommended that, starting at age 21, you begin cervical cancer testing by getting a Pap test every three years.

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. All lesbians 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.

This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or replace your healthcare professional. The lists do not include all health topics to be discussed with your healthcare provider, simply tips to begin the conversation. Consult your physician for further information.

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