This is the first systematic large-scale study of lesbian health that has been
conducted in the U.K. Its purpose is to provide data about lesbians' breast
and cervical screening behaviour and experiences of health care. Comparable
studies in the U.S.A. suggest that lesbians do not attend for routine screening
tests and are less likely, than heterosexual women, to practise breast self examination.
A questionnaire (the Lesbians and Health Care Survey) was
distributed to 1066 lesbians in the UK. Four follow-up focus groups (n = 30)
were used to explore some of the issues arising from the survey. The major
quantitative survey findings include: 12 per cent of lesbians have never
attended for a cervical smear; 20 per cent have never practised BSE, and only
11 per cent attend for a mammogram every three years. The qualitative
survey data were content analysed in order to identify the reasons given by
lesbians for their healthcare behaviour. In the follow-up focus groups, breast
health is taken as a case study. This thesis contributes to defining a lesbian feminist
health agenda by its valuing of lesbians' own perspectives; by
providing alternative conceptions of lesbians' health that do not rely on
biomedical, disease models; and it locates lesbians' health experiences within
a socio-political framework. By providing a range of data about-lesbians'
health, the findings may help to inform the understanding of health providers
about lesbians' health needs, improve the practice of health care delivery for
lesbians and be of value to lesbians in making decisions about their health
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.