The LGBT Cancer Support Alliance (based in Manchester) meets every few months and is made up of researchers, health professionals and people affected by cancer who all come together with a shared aim to reduce inequalities for LGBT people affected by cancer. Part of their work so far has been to identify and unpick the needs of different groups under the ‘LGBT umbrella’, and the first Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Week comes around just as they are really starting to bring to light the issues which specifically affect lesbian and bisexual women.
Why are these issues only just being uncovered? We know that many cancer services do not ask about or record the sexuality of cancer patients under their care, and this lack of monitoring means that the experiences of lesbian and bisexual women remain invisible*. As a patient this may also have an effect on the ease of conversations and appropriateness of given information around important aspects of recovery, for example a chat with your doctor around your sex life after cancer treatment.
In November last year the Alliance held their first event solely aimed at lesbian and bisexual women, an informal gathering of 10 women from the community to talk about some of the issues and barriers they have faced when accessing cancer services. The Alliance have also looked at underlying public health issues which continue to create inequalities for everyone under the LGBT umbrella, such as their newly published Proud 2B Smokefree report which presents new research on smoking cessation and the LGBT community (the latest ONS data shows that 31% of lesbian women smoke, a much higher rate than heterosexual women at 17%).
To mark the week, the LGBT Cancer Support Alliance will be sharing a new series of videos funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and produced by Alliance member and researcher from the University of Manchester, Maurice Nagington. The study gives us a frank and fresh insight into the lives of UK LGBT cancer patients through video interviews. Whether it’s Laeticia on cancer and life plans or couple Carolyn and Dollar on breast surgery, we hope you will find something of interest in these clips.
The Project aim to highlight and address inequalities for LGBT people affected by cancer. During LB Women’s Health week, they are joining forces with Staffordshire Breast Screening Services. They will be at a different venue across Staffordshire each day with information relevant to lesbian and bi women’s health and wellbeing. They will raise awareness of self-checking, smear tests, smoking cessation services, beauty tips after chemo and much more. They have also had prizes kindly donated by sponsors to offer in a raffle.
*In April 2017 an information standard for monitoring sexuality will be introduced across the health and social care system in England. This standard will enable organisations to monitor sexual orientation in a way that is consistent with all other parts of the healthcare system. Read more here.