Addressing cancer concerns in the LGBTQ+ community
By Deb Balzer
Stigma and discrimination create barriers to health care, placing the LGBTQ+ community at heightened risk for certain forms of cancer. Being aware of cancer risks and finding ways to overcome these challenges can be lifesaving.
"It's not because they're lesbian, gay or transgender. But instead, it's because of societal things: stigma, discrimination, lack of access to care, lack of inclusive care — where they feel embraced and can share their authentic self," says Dr. Kling.
This affects rates for breast cancer, for instance.
"If a lesbian woman doesn't feel like she has access to care or can be her authentic self with her physician, she may not go for that screening mammogram to get identified for breast cancer early on," Dr. Kling says.
And other groups may be at risk for different cancers.
"HPV is a virus linked with many cancers: anal cancer, cervical cancer, and some head and neck cancers," says Dr. Kling.
Being open with your clinician is essential and helps ensure you get the necessary care.
Dr. Kling says, "It becomes really important for us to know so we're making sure that we're providing the best whole-person, individualized care."
Navigating the health care system as an LGBTQ+ person can be challenging and uncomfortable, but taking steps to find proper care and understanding your cancer risks could save your life.
When it comes to preventing cancer, Dr. Kling says she tells her LGBTQ+ patients the same thing she tells all of her patients.
"We should all move. Exercise, do it regularly, about 30 minutes a day. We should make sure that we're getting enough sleep — on average, about seven to nine hours of sleep per night. We should be trying to eat a healthy, balanced diet, lots of fruits and vegetables, minimizing processed foods."
Read these articles for more information on cancer concerns in the LGBTQ+ community:
- "What people who identify as LGBTQ should know about cancer"
- "The importance of cancer screenings for the LGBTQ community"
- "Coming out as LGBTQ to your health care provider"
- "Reduce your risk of the 4 most common cancers"
- "Dear Mayo Clinic: Adults up to age 45 and at risk for HPV infection can get vaccine"
A version of this article was originally published on the Mayo Clinic News Network.