Cancer is one of the most difficult things that someone can go through, and discourse about cancer research and treatment is of vital importance when it comes to preventing and treating cancer. However, one aspect of the care received by cancer patients that often goes unconsidered is the impact that being part of the LGBTQ+ community can have on their treatment.
Recent research has suggested that patients who identify as LGBTQ+ face, in addition to the already mountainous struggle of fighting cancer itself, issues relating to their sexual orientation or gender identity. These issues can add stress and discomfort to an already difficult situation. For example, many LGBTQ+ patients reportedly struggle with whether or not to disclose their identity to care givers for fear of being stigmatised or treated differently.
Another important factor is that LGBTQ+ individuals have historically been systematically marginalised, and as a result many now have an interest mistrust of the establishment – caregivers included. This is clearly a problem as putting one’s health and wellbeing in the hands of someone requires an enormous amount of trust.
Another issue raised by the study is that LGBTQ+ patients apparently often feel uncomfortable disclosing their identify to caregivers. This is a major problem particularly when it comes to hospital and hospice care because it results in a situation where patients are spending either the most difficult or final moments of their life with their identities hidden from those in their presence.
According to this research, transgender patients specifically often see their own homes as the one place where they feel comfortable and safe, and as such, moving into hospice care during the end of their lives can be a daunting and a deeply uncomfortable prospect.
This raises the issue of whether caregivers such as doctors, nurses, and hospice workers are receiving adequate training in terms of bedside manner and how to treat LGBTQ+ patients specifically. These caregivers play an important role in the life of cancer patients, whether treating them, looking after them, or seeing them through their final days. It is of vital importance that they are able to identify with their patients and know how to properly treat them.
Suggestions mentioned in the study include improving communication and sensitivity training. This would hopefully ensure that medical staff and caregivers are more aptly able to converse with and care for their LGBTQ+ patients suffering from cancer without inadvertently upsetting them.
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