‘Queering Cancer’ website creates community for LGBTQ+ cancer patients
Cancer doesn’t discriminate, but the health care system does.
That’s the key message behind a new initiative co-developed by a University of the Fraser Valley professor aimed at creating a supportive online community for LGBTQ+ cancer patients.
“The focus is on patient support,” said Evan Taylor, an assistant professor in the UFV School of Social Work and Human Services.
“Our team kept hearing stories about barriers and challenges that LGBTQ2+ people were experiencing while trying to navigate our medical system and get treatment and supports from a cancer system that wasn’t designed with them in mind.”
With help from colleagues at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and the University of Alberta, Taylor created the “Queering Cancer” website . The online support system includes a peer support forum, patient stories and a searchable database of cancer resources specific to LGBTQ2+ people.
“The timing and response has been fantastic,” said Taylor. “Our lives have really gone online since the pandemic began.”
Taylor said cancer care in B.C. and around the world remains gendered, with people referring to certain types of cancer as “women’s or men’s cancers.” The team heard stories from people who have been denied care, been asked to wait in a hallway in a gown rather than a “women’s waiting room” or told they’re in the wrong place.
Taylor said medical care providers receive very little education about gender in school, and as a result many are not prepared to deal with LGBTQ+ patients.
“We heard numerous times from people who said, ‘We have to do all the work,’ ” said Taylor.
That’s backed up by research that shows LGBTQ+ patients are less likely to be satisfied with the care they receive. As a result, they may not seek help or return for follow-up visits.
“It’s not just about access, it’s about what happens when people distrust a system. They avoid it and that translates to poor outcomes,” said Taylor.
Systems can take many years to change, but Taylor’s team found something they could do in the meantime to help fill the gap.
“It’s this experience of ‘this is what my community knows, and now I have access to it,’ ” said Taylor. “A cancer diagnosis is isolating. To think you’re the only one is even harder.”
The project is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Institute of Gender and Health.