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Coming Out To Your Provider

Posted 6/9/2016 by UHBlog

Excerpts from CancerCare’s Coping with Cancer as an LGBT Person

For LGBT people with cancer, coming out to your health care provider can be an important step on the cancer journey. When LGBT people don’t have a health care provider that they can trust, they are less likely to make or keep appointments. They may not feel safe sharing info that a provider needs to give complete care. Finding an LGBT-positive provider allows you to use all of the support that is offered. It means that you can focus on coping with your cancer and treatment instead of worrying about keeping who you are, and the meaningful people in your life, a secret.

LGBT people face a greater chance of having lung, breast, cervical, anal and liver cancers than non-LGBT people. It is important to know that it is not because one is LGBT that one is at higher risk of a cancer. It’s that LGBT people, as a group, are more likely to have some behaviors that can increase the chances of getting cancer.

For example, smoking causes 80 percent of all lung cancers, and raises the risk for colon, esophageal and anal cancers. Studies show that gay men and lesbians are more likely to smoke than men and women who do not identify as gay. The American Cancer Society has tools to help you quit.

Having children after age 30, or not giving birth at all, is linked to higher risk of breast cancer for women.

HPV (human papillomavirus) can cause cervical cancer in women and anal cancer in men. If you are a man who has anal sex, which is how the virus is passed between men, ask your doctor for an anal pap smear to find out if you have HPV.

LGBT people often experience prejudice, stereotyping and bullying. This can be very stressful. It can put you at risk for depression, anxiety, substance abuse, feelings of loneliness and even suicide. Being open about your sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as any substance use or mental health needs, helps your provider to give you the best possible care.

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) has a searchable directory of LGBT-positive health care providers. The National LGBT Cancer Network has a list of cancer resources for the LGBT community. The National LGBT Cancer Project also has directory of LGBT-positive providers.

Finding a provider with whom you are comfortable can be a lot of work. But it may makes a huge difference.


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