Breast cancer in transgender women: risks and screening recommendations

Until recently, the medical community had no data on breast cancer rates in the transgender community. Transgender people throughout history have faced a great deal of discrimination, and data has often not been taken or recorded appropriately.

Discrimination and barriers to providing care still exist for the transgender community today, but there have been great strides forward. For example, it was assumed for years that transgender women had the same risk of breast cancer as gender-matched men, but new data has shown that this is not the case.

Medical researchers now know that transgender women are more likely to develop breast cancer than cross-sex men, and they should follow breast cancer screening guidelines.

In this article, we’ll look at breast cancer risk factors for transgender women and screening recommendations.

We still don’t have a lot of information about the risk of transgender women developing breast cancer. However, the results of a 2019 Dutch Study It provided a few valuable data.

The study looked for cases of breast cancer among transgender people receiving hormone therapy who received care at the sex clinic at VU University Medical Center Amsterdam in the Netherlands between 1972 and 2016. The center was chosen because it is a major public health facility, with more than 95 percent of transgender people receiving care. Sexual care in the Netherlands.

Researchers have found that transgender women who receive hormone therapy have an increased risk of developing breast cancer compared to sex-matched men. Data from the study also shows that the risk increased after treatment with sex-confirming hormones for only a short time.

Additionally, data from the study indicated that transgender women with breast cancer often develop it at a younger age than women who develop breast cancer.

The median age for breast cancer diagnosis for transgender women in the study was 52. The median age for breast cancer diagnosis for gender-matched women in the Netherlands is 61.

More studies and information are still needed. However, this study shows that hormone therapy increases the risk of breast cancer in transgender women. Although the risk is considered to be lower than that of intersex women, it is very important that screening and education about breast cancer for transgender women is very important.

The Dutch study demonstrated the importance of breast cancer screening for transgender women. Recommendations for careful screening of transgender women depend on your specific circumstances. Here are three general recommendations:

  1. If you’ve been using feminizing hormones for at least 5 years, follow the recommendations for breast cancer screening for gender-related women in your age group.
  2. If you’re 50 or older, follow the recommendations for breast cancer screening for heterosexual women in your age group and get a screen at least every two years. This applies regardless of how long you’ve been on hormones.
  3. If you have a family history of breast cancer or know you have gene mutations on the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, follow screening instructions for high-risk women in your age group. This applies regardless of how long you’ve been on hormones.

The doctor or clinic that prescribes your hormones may be able to advise you if you’re not sure exactly when to start the tests. You can talk to them about any family history of breast cancer or any other concerns you may have. They can help you create a schedule and plan for a screening.

They may also be able to recommend health care professionals and locations for access to breast cancer screening.

Breast cancer is most treatable when detected in its early stages. This is why screening is so important, as well as knowing the symptoms of breast cancer.

The following symptoms do not always indicate cancer. However, if you notice any of them, it is best to see a medical professional as soon as possible.

Here are the signs to know:

  • A new lump in the breast tissue
  • An area of ​​breast tissue that looks different from the surrounding tissue
  • breast pain
  • breast swelling
  • inverted nipple
  • Redness or discoloration of the skin on the breast
  • flaking or peeling of the skin on the breast
  • nipple discharge
  • bloody nipple discharge
  • Sudden change in the size or appearance of the breasts
  • Painful swelling or swelling in the armpit

What are the risks of breast cancer for transgender men?

Male hormones reduce the risk of breast cancer. Transgender men are less likely to develop breast cancer than cross-sex women.

However, unless they have had a mastectomy, it is recommended that transgender men continue to follow breast cancer screening recommendations for gender-compliant women in their age group.

Transgender men who take male hormones and have had a mastectomy do not need to continue screening for breast cancer.

Should you stop taking feminizing hormones if you have other risk factors for breast cancer?

Talk to your doctor about your breast cancer risk. In general, stopping the uterine feminizing hormones is not necessary. Although feminine hormones increase the risk of breast cancer when compared to that of a gender-compatible man, the risk is still lower than that of breast cancer.

This means that while breast cancer is a health concern for transgender women, an increased risk of developing it, even when other risk factors are present, is usually not enough to recommend stopping hormones.

However, only you can determine if you are comfortable with the increased risk of breast cancer. If you are concerned, it can help to find a transgender-friendly healthcare professional who can help you understand your personal risks.

Are there other types of feminizing hormones that do not increase the risk of breast cancer?

Any type of feminizing hormone that provides gender affirming results is likely to carry the same risks. Feminizing hormones trigger the growth of breast tissue. This will increase the risk of breast cancer. Keep in mind that the increase in risk is small.

Can transgender women who have not changed their legal gender be screened for breast cancer?

You have the right not to discriminate when you receive health care. There are national and state laws, as well as insurance regulations, that protect your right to access services such as breast cancer screenings, regardless of whether or not you have formally changed your legal documents.

You can read a full list of your protected rights when accessing health care and find more resources by visiting the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Transgender women who take female hormones are more likely to develop breast cancer than gender-matched men. The increase in risk is slight, and the risk is lower than that of gender-matched women. However, the risks are high enough and are important for transgender women to have breast cancer screening.

Currently, it is recommended that screenings for transgender women begin when they have been on hormones for 5 years or when they are 50 years old. At either point, screening recommendations for sex-compliant women should be followed.

Transgender women at higher risk, such as transgender women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, are advised to have screenings more frequently. It’s a good idea to talk with the doctor prescribing your hormones about your personal risks and schedule for testing.


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