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Transgender patients are missing out on cancer screening, warns health minister

Transgender patients may be missing out on cancer screenings due to the way they are registered.

Speaking in Parliament, health minister Steve Brine said transgender men who still have a cervix will not be automatically invited for cervical screening if they are registered as male, meaning they would have to request it from their GP – despite being at no lesser risk.

Mr Brine has requested the issue be reviewed as part of an ongoing review into the national cancer screening programmes.

GPs have called for NHS England to rectify the issue, as the body responsible for the service, saying we should ‘screen the target organ, not the gender’.

Speaking as part of a debate on cervical cancer smear tests, Mr Brine said: ‘NHS England has published clear guidance for transgender men—people who have changed from female to male. Transgender men who still have a cervix and have not had a hysterectomy remain entitled to screening.

‘If a transgender man is still registered with their GP as a female, they will continue to receive invitations for screening. If they are registered as a male, they remain eligible for screening but will not automatically be invited. The guidance makes clear that transgender men need to request screening from their GP.’

Mr Brine said he wants this issue to be addressed as part of ‘Sir Mike’s screening review’.

In November, the Government announced a major overhaul on NHS cancer screening programmes. As part of this, an independent review of the services is being led by Professor Sir Mike Richards.

Head of primary care and public health at Imperial College London Professor Azeem Majeed, a GP in south London, said: ‘Transgender patients, at whatever stage of their transition, should continue to be included in appropriate national screening programmes.

‘The best principle is to screen the target organ, not the gender. This might mean a transgender man – assuming he has not undergone surgery to remove the cervix – would continue to receive regular cervical smears to reduce his risk of developing advanced cervical cancer, or a 65-year-old transgender woman would be screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm.’

He added: ‘The other point to bear in mind is that other than for cervical screening, these screening programmes (e.g. breast, aortic aneurysm) are all delivered by NHS England and not by GPs. NHS England therefore has the primary responsibility to rectify any problems in the screening processes for transgender people.’

The screening programmes have recently faced major problems.

Last year, it was revealed that primary care support provider Capita failed to send out nearly 48,000 letters inviting patients for cervical cancer screening.

Additionally, the Government admitted last May that due to an IT error back in 2009, 450,000 women missed their cancer screenings.


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