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Gay and lesbian people with cancer speak out about their experiences

‘People, when I told them I had cancer, they thought I had AIDS’

Gay and lesbian people with cancer speak out about their experiences
lgbcancer.wordpress.com
LGB people with cancer speak out about their experiences

Cancer can be a terrifying experience for anyone affected by it, but different people may often have different experiences – both in the health system and in accessing wider support.

This can be particularly true for gay, lesbian and bisexual patients.

The University of Manchester in England, in conjunction with the charity Macmillan Cancer Support, has released a series of videos featuring gay, lesbian and bisexual people talking about their experiences with cancer.

The videos were filmed by Dr Maurice Nagington, a lecturer in nursing at the university.

They were produced primarily to help NHS staff to educate themselves on the particular issues and concerns that LGB communities have when it comes to their cancer treatment.

‘LGB people with cancer often experience services which are heteronormative (designed for straight people),’ said Dr Nagington in a statement.

‘For instance this can include advice on hair loss or makeup which is targeted at making women look particularly feminine when this may not be the way they usually present, whilst not offering any such services to men.

‘Some of the people we spoke to told us how advice about the effects of cancer and treatment on sex was designed for heterosexual people and the professionals they spoke with weren’t able to address their concerns or were reluctant to go into much detail.’

Assumptions about partners

One of the videos features Lesley, who has received treatment for ovarian cancer.

‘It’d be nice if people wouldn’t make assumptions about your husband coming in to visit,’ she says in the film.

Another features Greg, who has been treated for prostate cancer. He says he was warned that he might experience blood in his urine, but did not get any information on how the diagnosis might impact on his sex life.

Another Adam, says when he told people he had cancer, they thought he was lying and he actually had AIDS.

‘Our interviewees often approached misunderstandings about their sexuality with humor and were very brave and honest in telling their stories,’ says Nagington.

‘I think their overall advice would be that professionals should remember that not all patients are straight and sometimes what fits one group isn’t appropriate for all.’

He also says he hopes to expand on the site. He wants to include trans voices and more on the sexual challenges faced by lesbian and bisexual women.

Watch the videos at lgbcancer.wordpress.com

The website also includes links for further reading and local LGBT cancer support groups. This includes a dedicated LGBT discussion forum on the Macmillan website.


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