BY SARA SUGAR
Go ahead ask me. Ask me when my last breast or pelvic exam was and watch my face go blank. Now ask my partner the same thing and watch a similar expression appear on her face. We admit; we’re long overdue and it’s not ok.
In a month that is colored pink for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’ve started to think about how many strong, smart and educated women I know who consistently avoid seeing a doctor. When I think of my friends who also admit to being long overdue for their exams, the majority of us have one thing is common: we’re gay.
But what none of us can or should avoid is that one in every eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, and according to Susan G. Komen for the Cure: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual women and transgender people have a greater risk of breast cancer than other women.”
This increased risk for lesbians and bisexual women developing breast cancer is not related to sexual orientation, but to specific risk factors that are more often found within the gay community. According to Liz Margolies, LCSW, founder and executive director of The National LGBT Cancer Network, the four mostly commonly cited risk factors for lesbians and bisexual women developing breast cancer include: a higher rate of cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and obesity, as well as gay women being less likely to give birth before turning thirty.
But there is also a fifth factor: lesbians and bisexual women are less likely than heterosexual women to have yearly gynecological exams. So why don’t we go? The reasons are endless, but it very often comes down to one of two things: a lack of health insurance or uneasiness with healthcare providers.
It is not a secret that the majority of healthcare professionals have little to no experience when it comes to interacting with the LGBT community, and depending on where you live in the world, very often it falls on the lesser end of the spectrum. No one likes encountering the infamous blank stare from a nurse after she inquires whether you use protection as you awkwardly squirm in your gown saying, well I’m a lesbian so, uh, it’s kind of a little different… It is also not a secret that finding affordable LGBT sensitive healthcare is not the easiest of feats and very often it is overwhelming.
But we know we can’t hide from the fact that not having yearly exams and regular mammograms puts us at a higher risk for the second most deadly cancer for women: breast cancer. We don’t hide in the streets, so let’s not allow cancer to hide from us: let’s Hollaback! to cancer! Check out the links below to find out where you and all the badass women in your life can find resources and information about the prevention and detection of breast cancer.
2.)Need help finding a doctor? Go to the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) to find LGBT sensitive healthcare providers.
3.)Find out more information about the LGBT community and cancer at the National LGBT Cancer Network.