Early detection is the best way to prevent colon, breast and cervical cancer

It seems to me that, in spite of all the fears and the risks and the barriers, we have to get ourselves checked out. Our health is important. Shoshana

Did you know that cancer screening rates are low among trans* women, Two Spirit, genderqueer and other gender non-conforming people along the transfeminine spectrum? And yet, several factors put us at higher risk for colon, breast and cervical cancer.

It’s true: trans people can face several barriers to getting screened. But it’s equally true that we need to get screened for colon, breast and cervical cancer. Screening means checking for cancer before you have any symptoms. Screening can stop cancer before it starts or find cancer early, when treatment works best.

So, is cancer screening worth the hassle and discomfort? The answer is yes. Because your health is worth it. Because your body is worth it. Because you have a right to quality, timely healthcare. Because screening saves lives.

Learn more about how to get screened for colon, breast and cervical cancer. Screening saves lives!

Why these cancers?

You may be wondering why we’re focusing on colon, breast and cervical cancer when there are so many other types of cancer to worry about.

In Ontario, we focus on screening for these types of cancer for a few reasons.

First, these three cancers are relatively common, and so it makes sense to screen for them rather than screening for rarer cancers.

Second, we have reliable and proven screening tests to check for each of these cancers at very early stages or even before they start, when treatment is easiest and most effective. We can more easily offer these tests to the populations at risk for these cancers. We don’t (yet) have similar screening tests for other types of cancer.

As well, these cancers can be caught early or even prevented with screening. If caught early, they are very easy to treat. If these cancers aren't detected until later stages, though, treatment is much longer and more painful — and may not be as successful.

Finally, we know that the screening tests for colon, breast and cervical cancer benefit large groups of people. For example, we know that all adults over the age of 50 should be screened for colon cancer, and that anyone with a cervix who is sexually active should be screened for cervical cancer starting from the age of 21. Similarly, breast cancer screening is appropriate for any person between 50 to 69 years with breast tissue. But we don’t have the same evidence that population-wide screening would reduce the rates of other types of cancers.

So, that’s why we screen for breast, colon and cervical cancer. If you’re at risk for a different type of cancer, or if you have symptoms that you think may be cancer related, it’s important to get checked out by your doctor and create a personalized cancer screening plan that works for you.

Please read the sections for trans women to learn more about the early detection and screening for colon, chest and cervical cancer.  Please share this information with your friends, family and social networks!

*We recognize that the term “trans women and people on the transfeminine spectrum” doesn’t cover the full range of transfeminine (that is, on the male to female (MtF) spectrum ) and gender non-conforming experiences and identities. For this portion of the website, we will refer to people on the MtF spectrum as “trans women.” We’ve chosen this term because of its simplicity, but we recognize that it has limitations. Please feel free to contact us  if you have suggestions or comments on this website, including input on how to be more inclusive.