Cervical cancer isn’t just caused by HPV transmission between a woman and a man, which is why lesbians absolutely should get an annual Pap smear.

Though we know that cervical cancer is primarily caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted via intercourse between a man and a woman.

Thus, one has to wonder where gay women fit in, when it comes to routine Pap smears.

Though some lesbians have had sex with men, what about lesbians who have never been involved with a man, and absolutely have no intention of ever getting close to a man?

Do such gay women still need to get their annual Pap smear? How much are gay women at risk for cervical cancer?

I posed this intriguing question to Lisa B. Bazzett, MD, a gynecologic oncologist (cancer specialist) at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.

The literature, regarding Pap smears and cervical cancer screening, typically states that women need to begin getting Pap smears either

1) when they become sexually active, and

2) or when they turn 21. This directive for Pap smear screening and cervical cancer is ubiquitous, yet leaves out a particular segment of the populace, the gay woman.

Can HPV be transmitted from one gay woman to another? Though a lesbian may have never been near a man and may have no intentions of such, her partner may have been with a man and may have contracted the HPV.

Though lesbian sex obviously does not involve the same kind of penetration that heterosexual intercourse involves, a gay woman can still contract HPV from her lesbian partner (who contracted it from a past heterosexual relation). The result could be cervical cancer.

Dr. Bazzett explains that this is possible, even though there is no vaginal penetration with a male organ, because HPV can be transmitted from skin-to-skin contact.

Thus, the mere act of genital fondling and rubbing, in the absence of actual intercourse, can transmit HPV.

You can now see how a gay woman can end up getting cervical cancer, and thus needs to get Pap smears on a routine basis.

Dr. Bazzett explains, “As for lesbians …. I think anyone that engages in any sexual activity, should have yearly Paps. I have plenty of lesbians in my practice with HPV. With any sexual partner, you never know about their previous sexual activity, or the person they were with, etc. etc.”

As for the origins of HPV in the first place, Dr. Bazzett says, “We don’t know where HPV comes from. It’s been around a long time, but linked to cancers just in the last couple of decades.”

Dr. Bazzett specializes in the treatment of malignancies of the female reproductive organs including that of the ovary, uterus, cervix, vagina and vulva. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  

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