Here’s Why You Should Get That Mammogram (Even Trans/Nonbinary Folx)

by Nikki Naser

It’s not something people look forward to–maybe even less so if you are lesbian, bi+, queer, trans, or nonbinary. Just the mention of getting a mammogram may fill you with dread.

But, as uncomfortable as it may be, mammograms are something we have to talk about and take on as part of caring for our bodies. For the LBGTQ+ community, there are some extra obstacles and important risk factors for breast cancer that we should be aware of.

Mammograms: What’s Stopping Us? 

The fear of having breast cancer (obvious)

Not wanting a stranger to see/touch your body

Not having insurance, or being underinsured

Fear of being mistreated at the doctor’s office

Previous bad experience at the OB-GYN

Gender dysphoria preventing you from doing self-checks

Feeling dysphoric about the focus on breasts and gendered language

Providers’ lack experience/knowledge of LGBTQ+ needs/concerns

Having that area squished

LGBTQ+ Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

All of that may have sounded familiar, but here’s something you may not know about LGBTQ+ folx and breast cancer risks:

If you’ve never had children or breast-fed, you’re at a higher risk.

Having children later (after age 35) can increase your risk.

Even after top surgery, you may still have some breast tissue, which means you can still be at risk. If you’ve only had a reduction, you’re still at risk.

Your body can convert excess testosterone into estrogen, which increases your risk if you’re taking T.

If you’re taking estrogen therapy or birth control pills (to avoid gender dysphoria from periods or pregnancies, etc.), you are at increased risk.

When To Get a Mammogram

You may also not know that you need a mammogram if the screening guidelines, providers, and clinics don’t use inclusive language for trans and nonbinary people.

A 2019 survey of 149 oncologists across the United States showed a significant lack of knowledge and confidence in understanding LGBTQ+ needs. If a majority of specialists don’t know your needs, where can you get the right info and care?

Here’s what you need to know about when to get a mammogram:

If you have breasts or have been taking estrogen for at least 5 years, you should follow the standard screening recommendations for cisgender women.

If you have not had bilateral mastectomy, or have only had breast reduction, follow the current guidelines for cisgender women.

There are no reliable guidelines for those who have undergone mastectomy, so you should talk to your doctor about screening. It’s possible to still have breast tissue remaining.

Age Guidelines 

The general (cisgender) guidelines for when to get mammograms vary, so talk to your doctor about getting your first mammogram at age 40, and then annually. Some guidelines say to start annually at age 45 and then every 2 years when you hit 55. The American Cancer Society recommends:

Next Steps

Read this helpful info from Susan G. Komen Puget Sound

Find out your risk factors

Do a self-check and talk to your doctor if you find redness, lumps, discharge, sores, rashes, swelling, a change in size, pain, or anything different

Schedule your first mammogram or next mammogram

We owe it to ourselves to use the tools we have to care for our bodies.