Lesbian and bisexual women missing out on breast cancer care

Lesbian and bisexual women at high risk of breast cancer are missing out on care

Lesbian and bisexual women at high risk of breast cancer are missing out on care, reports Clare Lomas

Abstract

Lesbian and bisexual women have an increased risk of breast cancer, yet can be reluctant to access healthcare services because of lack of awareness and discriminatory attitudes among professionals. Nurses and other healthcare professionals need to use inclusive language and avoid assuming that all patients are heterosexual.

The largest survey of lesbian and bisexual women’s health conducted outside the United States – published by the charity Stonewall in 2008 – found that lesbian and bisexual women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Based on a national survey of 6,178 lesbian and bisexual women in Great Britain, the report, Prescription for Change, found that more than one in 12 lesbian and bisexual women aged between 50 and 79 have been diagnosed with the disease, compared with one in 20 of the general female population in this age group.

‘Many lesbian and bisexual women will get breast cancer at some point in their lives, yet their needs are largely invisible in cancer services,’ says Jackie Foley, clinical projects manager at the Metro Centre, a London-based charity. The centre works in partnership with statutory and voluntary organisations to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people.

Lesbian and bisexual women may be at increased risk of breast cancer because they are less likely to have children than heterosexual women, meaning they will not experience the protective effect that breast-feeding provides against the disease.

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This article was first published in print under the original title 'A particular challenge' in Nursing Standard: volume 28, issue 23

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