Bengaluru: The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in the country continues to face social stigma, non-acceptance and discrimination though consensual sexual relations of the same gender has been decriminalised.
The community fights a plethora of medical problems, mainly psychological. Besides, women have a high risk of cancer and general health conditions but are not open to discuss their medical problems as they are concerned about confidentiality and the general discrimination they may face from healthcare professionals.
Several studies have shown a higher prevalence of obesity, tobacco use, and alcohol among this group of women who run the risk of becoming diabetic, suffering heart attacks or getting afflicted with lung cancer. It is common for lesbians to suffer from mental health diseases and depression due to lack of family and society support in their formative years.
Members of the community suffer from emotional stress contributed largely by a sense of isolation with a hidden lifestyle leading to abuse, depression and even suicide. Women are more likely to be addicted to alcohol and drugs compared to heterosexual women. Intimate partner violence is also common although under-reported by the sufferer. Adolescents are at higher risk of suffering from depression, eating disorders, suicide, and substance abuse.
When compared with heterosexual women, lesbians have fewer pregnancies which might put them at risk of various cancers, including breast, endometrial or ovarian cancer. This may be due to nulliparity, late childbearing, absence of breastfeeding and reduced use of combined oral contraceptive pills. The risk of cervical cancer may be reduced in women who have only homosexual contact.
However, screening for cervical cancer should follow national guidelines among women of this group.
Dr Prathima Reddy, Director, senior obstetrician and gynaecologist, Fortis La Femme Hospital, said, “These women don't come to the doctors as easily and frequently as others because they feel that they may be stigmatised and not treated well. As they don't visit for a routine check-up, these problems may not be picked up. The doctors can be more open to these patients and they need to be encouraged by health officials and institutions."