Tweet misleads on cervical cancer guidance for trans women

March 17, 2023 GMT

CLAIM: The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that transgender women get screened for cervical cancer.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. The Canadian Cancer Society advises on its webpage that some trans women who have received certain types of vaginoplasties, also known as bottom surgeries, can be at a rare risk for cancer because of the tissue used in some procedures. Thus, those patients may need to be occasionally screened. The organization’s guidance makes clear that trans women who haven’t had bottom surgery aren’t at risk for cervical cancer and don’t need to be regularly tested for the disease.

THE FACTS: Social media users are mischaracterizing the Canadian Cancer Society’s guidance on cervical cancer among trans women to suggest that the organization is urging all members of the group to be routinely tested for the disease, which primarily affects only those who have a cervix.

“BREAKING Cancer Society recommends that trans women get screened for cervical cancer for their non existent cervix,” wrote one Twitter user in a misleading post that was viewed nearly 100,000 times.

The post linked to an article by a conservative blog that featured an out-of-context image from the Canadian Cancer Society’s webpage on cervical cancer and trans women. The image showed the heading “As a trans woman, do I need to get screened for cervical cancer?” above a photo of a woman and the quote “Get tested early to help win the battle against cancer.”

However, those elements of the webpage were deceptively edited together. The full page shows that the heading “As a trans woman, do I need to get screened for cervical cancer?” is immediately followed by a statement clarifying that only a small group of trans women should consider screening for cervical cancer as part of their pelvic health following surgery.

“If you’re a trans woman, you may not have given much thought to Pap tests and cervical cancer. And if you haven’t, that makes a fair amount of sense. After all, in order to get cervical cancer, you need to have a cervix — that is, the organ that connects the vagina to the uterus,” the opening paragraph states. “If you’re a trans woman and have not had bottom surgery, you aren’t at risk for cervical cancer.”

The page goes on to explain that some trans women who have had bottom surgery to create a vagina, also called a vaginoplasty, and possibly a cervix, may be at “a small risk” of developing cancer in the tissues of their “neo-vagina or neo-cervix.”

“The risk depends on the type of surgery you had, the type of tissue used to create your vagina and cervix and your personal health history,” the guidance clarifies. “Talk to your healthcare provider to figure out your specific cancer-screening needs as part of your overall pelvic health following surgery.”

Only at the bottom of the page does the image of the patient and the quote about early screening appear. Similar quotes about screening for cancer appear across the organization’s other web pages, including for breast and colorectal cancer screenings.

The Canadian Cancer Society did not provide comment.


This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.