Research has shown that the following are some of the most common health concerns faced by lesbian and bisexual women. While they may not all apply to everyone, they are important concerns for lesbian and bisexual women and their health care providers to be aware of.
Lesbian and bisexual women have a greater risk of developing breast cancer than heterosexual women, but they are less likely to obtain regular cancer screenings, like mammograms, which are used to diagnose the condition in its early stages. This is very problematic because early detection is key to the treatment of the disease and increases the woman’s chances of remission.
Intimate Partner Violence
While people may not associate same-sex relationships with intimate partner violence, the statistics show that it is a major concern for lesbian and bisexual women. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that compared to 35 percent of heterosexual women, 43.8 percent of lesbian women and 61.1 percent of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner. Compounding this problem are barriers accessing support services, lack of training on the part of the service providers and discrimination in shelters.
Looking for a health care provider is never easy, but for LGBT individuals, the search is especially challenging. Paula M. Neira, a nurse educator, lawyer and former naval officer, explains the importance of coming out and offers advice for finding the right doctor.
On average, lesbian and bisexual women drink more than heterosexual women and have a higher occurrence of alcohol-related problems, like alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Research has also discovered higher rates of smoking, cocaine and marijuana use among lesbian and bisexual women than heterosexual women. The use and abuse of these substances is linked to multiple forms of cancer and conditions of the heart and lungs, which are the top three causes of death among women.
Like some of the other health concerns common among lesbian and bisexual women, rates of drug use may be tied to stress resulting from discrimination, homophobia and/or sexism.