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EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CANCER PREVENTION AS AN LGBTQ PERSON

From Our Founder

Every single person carries with them a certain amount of cancer risk. This is true for people of all ages, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, occupations, and lifestyles. Unfortunately, while we are familiar with a myriad of cancer risk factors, science still isn’t at the point where we can completely understand and explain all the mechanisms that lead to cancer.

For LGBTQ individuals, some of these familiar risk factors may be more prevalent. This is due to a number of reasons, including unique hormone exposures, increased rates of tobacco and alcohol use, and higher levels of stress.

That’s why it’s so important for members of the LGBTQ community to be aware of these cancer disparities, their own cancer risks, and what they can do to prevent the disease. This blog post will explore what you can do as a member of the LGBTQ community to reduce your cancer risk.

FIND A TRUSTWORTHY DOCTOR

The most crucial step you can take in cancer prevention is finding a trustworthy doctor with whom you feel comfortable discussing sensitive topics. It is not advisable to skip routine screenings and check-ups because you’re nervous or don’t have a good relationship with your doctor. It’s important to find a health care provider who will make you feel comfortable and heard so that you can discuss any concerns you have and get the cancer screening and tests you need.

To help you find an inclusive healthcare facility and healthcare provider, use the Healthcare Equality Index as a guide. The Index is a yearly report compiled by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation that rates healthcare facilities on their policies and practices related to LGBTQ patients.

Alternatively, ask for recommendations from your friends, family, and peers in the LGBTQ community to find a healthcare facility and provider that meets your needs.

The benefits of finding a good doctor go beyond cancer prevention and improved cancer outcomes. A medical professional that you trust can also help you manage other health conditions, provide guidance on how to stay healthy, and be a valuable resource for information and support in cancer care and beyond.

Full disclosure is paramount

It may seem too private, but your designated healthcare professional must know everything about your lifestyle and health in order to provide the best possible care.

This includes information you may not be too comfortable with sharing, such as your past sexual history, what medical procedures you may have had (including gender transition-related surgeries), any drug use, and your tobacco and alcohol consumption habits.

For example, if your doctor isn’t aware that you were assigned female at birth and you haven’t gone through lower body gender-transition surgeries, they may not think to screen you for uterine, ovarian, or cervical cancer.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is another area where full disclosure is key. If you’re taking HRT, your doctor needs to know because it may lead to an increased risk of cancer. They also need to be aware of any other medications or supplements you’re taking, as these can interact with hormones.

Asking questions about your lifestyle is not an invasion of privacy-it’s a vital part of providing quality healthcare. The more information your doctor has, the better they can assess your risks and tailor their recommendations to you as an individual.

DON’T MISS ROUTINE CHECK-UPS

Most cancer prevention lies in early detection. That’s why it’s so important to keep up with your routine check-ups, even if you feel healthy.

Make sure to know when you’re supposed to get screened and for which cancers. For example, the general recommendation is that everyone over 45 get screened for colorectal cancer, and LGBTQ people may be at increased risk for this type of cancer. Other cancers that you may be at increased risk for include anal, breast, prostate, uterine, and lung cancer.

Your doctor can help you figure out which screenings and tests are right for you based on your individual risk factors. They can also help you make a plan to stay on top of your screenings, exams, and check-ups.

LIMIT YOUR SUBSTANCE USE

Extensive cancer research has shown that smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol are both major risk factors for cancer. Research has also shown that the LGBTQ population has higher rates of smoking and drinking than the general population.

If you smoke tobacco or drink alcohol, it’s important to be as mindful as possible about your consumption. Try to limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day, and if you can, quit smoking altogether. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor-they can provide resources and support.

Similarly, if you are taking any drugs recreationally or as medication, discuss this with your doctor. If you need help with drug addiction, many resources are available to help you get and stay clean.

GET VACCINATED

HPV, or the human papillomavirus, is a common virus that can cause cancer. In fact, HPV is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers as well as anal cancers.

The good news is that there are vaccines available that can protect you from HPV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children and young adults, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, get the HPV vaccine against this virus.

There are also other vaccines that can help protect you from cancer, such as the hepatitis B vaccine, which can help prevent liver cancer. Talk to your doctor about which vaccines are right for you.

EAT HEALTHY AND EXERCISE

A healthy diet and regular exercise are important for everyone, but they may be especially important for LGBTQ people. Studies have found that lesbian and bisexual women tend to have higher rates of obesity than heterosexual women. The opposite is true for gay men in comparison to heterosexual men.

A healthy diet consists of plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limits processed meats, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats. Exercise is important for maintaining a healthy weight, reducing inflammation, and boosting your immune system.

Both diet and exercise reduce the risk of cancer, so it’s important to make them a part of your regular routine. It does not mean that you have to spend hours at the gym-even a moderate amount of activity, like a 30-minute walk every day, can make a significant difference.

KNOW YOUR FAMILY HISTORY

Cancer is often caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. That’s why it’s important to know your family history of cancer, as well as your own personal risk factor makeup.

If you have a family member who has had cancer, be sure to tell your doctor. They can help you understand your risk and take steps to prevent cancer.

CONCLUSION

The fact that members of the LGBT community have a higher risk of cancer is not necessarily reason for extreme concern. There are many things that you can do to lower your risk, and the most important thing is to be proactive about your health.

Do not underestimate the importance of finding a doctor that you trust who is knowledgeable about LGBTQ health issues. They can be a valuable resource and help you make informed decisions about your health. Consult with your peers, family, and friends, and research your options to find the best possible care for you.

Aside from finding a doctor that you feel comfortable with, the best way to lower your risk of cancer is to live a healthy lifestyle. This includes not smoking, limiting your alcohol intake, getting vaccinated against known causes of cancer, such as HPV, eating healthy, and exercising regularly.

By following these simple tips, you can significantly lower your cancer risk and improve your overall health.

Music Beats Cancer is dedicated to funding innovative technologies that address all areas of cancer care, screening, prevention and treatment. To learn more about our work or to make a donation, please visit our website.

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