Over 375,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the UK. These people represent diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and demographics.
In 2019 in the UK, there was an estimated 1.4 million people, aged 16 and over, that identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual. This is predicted to have increased since then.
In addition, LGBTQ+ people are less satisfied with their life than the general population, particularly from fears of negative reactions and opinions from others.
Avoiding healthcare services
LGBTQ+ people often have worse experiences of cancer services; communication, being treated fairly and feeling supported are all vital in a person's cancer journey. These are areas where LGBTQ+ people feel could be significantly improved. A report by Stonewall found that 14% of LGBT people, including 37% of trans people, have avoided accessing healthcare services due to fear of being discriminated against. This has led to fewer LGBTQ+ people to attend cancer screening, which consequently can result in a missed diagnosis or heavily delayed diagnosis, impacting their treatment plans and general outcomes.
Smoking counts for 1 in 4 cancer deaths in the UK. Furthermore, drinking alcohol regularly can increase the risk of many cancers including mouth, breast and bowel cancer. LGBTQ+ people are statistically more likely to smoke and also consume higher rates of alcohol which subsequently increases their risk of being diagnosed with these cancers. In 2017, smoking prevalence was 1.5 times higher in lesbian, gay and bisexual people than heterosexual or straight people. As well as this, some members of the LGBTQ+ community also find they are discouraged from or refused cancer screening by healthcare professionals, such as cervical cancer screening as a result of their sexual orientation.
Everyone is unique
The term LGBTQ+ is excellent at acknowledging members of the community. As we know, cancer affects people differently and everyone’s cancer journey is unique. The LGBTQ+ community is no different; everyone is unique and will have a unique journey. LGBTQ+ cancer patients are not a homogeneous group and each individual will have different needs which would consequently require different types of support. Acknowledging a person's partner and not assuming they are only friends or related, is a small change that can make a huge difference to how someone feels supported.
One in three people with cancer will experience a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety disorders before, during or after treatment. The majority of these problems arise towards the end of cancer treatment, when there is little or no emotional support. As well as this, members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to be attacked at work. 1 in 8 trans employees were physically attacked by a colleague or customer within the last year and more than a third have hidden their identity at work as they fear they will be discriminated against.
The right support
Finding the right support to suit an individual's needs is vital, equally so within the LGBTQ+ community. With the right support, many of our Reframe clients choose to work through their cancer journey - minimising time away from work. LGBTQ+ people included. Cancer does not discriminate who it chooses, and nor do we when it comes to supporting everyone, no matter their background, views or bias.