Gay and lesbian patients with cancer

Anne Katz
Oncology Nursing Forum 2009, 36 (2): 203-7

PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES: To describe the cancer experience of gay men and lesbian women.

RESEARCH APPROACH: Descriptive, qualitative analysis.

SETTING: Ambulatory cancer center in a midsized Canadian city.

PARTICIPANTS: 3 gay men and 4 lesbian women with cancer.

METHODOLOGIC APPROACH: In-depth, face-to-face interviews were conducted with a semistructured interview guide. Transcribed interviews were analyzed, and themes were identified within and among individuals.

FINDINGS: Coded transcripts of the interview data yielded four themes: Disclosure related to individuals' experiences in revealing their sexual orientation to cancer care providers, Response to Partner described the role of partners in the care continuum and healthcare providers' responses to the presence of same-sex partners, Support From Others addressed the lack of support groups for gay and lesbian clients, and Body Image concerned the alterations to physical appearance resulting from cancer and its treatments and the unique role that image plays in gay and lesbian communities.

CONCLUSIONS: Overt homophobia or discrimination within the cancer care system was not experienced by this study's participants. Participants valued the central role of their partners in coping with cancer. Some gaps in the cancer care system related to support groups were identified.

INTERPRETATION: Although the participants did not experience overt discrimination in the cancer care system, nurses should continue to ensure that sensitive care is provided to the gay and lesbian population.

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