Coming Out to Your Care Team as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual
A breast cancer diagnosis comes with a lot of new information and concerns. The first days, weeks and months can be overwhelming. Trusting your healthcare team and communicating with them openly is often key to easing your worries and fears.
As a lesbian, gay or bisexual person with breast cancer, you may be considering if you feel safe and ready to share your sexual orientation with your breast cancer care team. You may be familiar with the phrase coming out, the process through which you share your sexual orientation with others. There are many reasons you may or may not decide to share this information with your providers.
Some members of your care team may ask you about your sexual orientation. This lets you know you and your identified family are safe and welcome. Asking you about your sexual identity may make you feel at ease discussing how a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment affect your physical relationships, fertility and ability to have children in the future.
Other providers may not ask, or it may be up to you to bring it up.
You may feel coming out is important to working well with your care team, whether they ask you or not. Or you may feel nervous coming out, feel it may not be needed or see it as added burden.
There are many general health and cancer centers across the U.S. that are welcoming of LGBT people affected by cancer.
There are many factors that may help you decide whether to come out to them. Feeling safe, welcomed and confident that a breast cancer provider will be able to offer you the care and respect you need may be chief among them. The information below may help you decide what’s best for you.
Below are some of the benefits of coming out:
- Your care team may be better able to help you address specific sexual and relationship concerns related to your diagnosis
- It may ease the stress of feeling like you must hide your true self
- The more a healthcare provider knows about you, the better he or she can help you stay healthiest during breast cancer treatment and beyond
Keep in mind that telling others about your sexual orientation will not limit everything they assume about you. You may have to help educate them about your specific concerns.
Coming out is your personal choice – if you decide not to come out for any reason, that’s OK. You may see it as an extra burden on top of the stress of a breast cancer diagnosis. Maybe you feel you can communicate well without your doctor knowing such personal details.
Sharing with your doctor may not be an option for you because:
- You aren’t ready to or simply don’t wish to come out
- You want to focus on your breast cancer and immediate medical needs
- You feel that your hospital isn’t LGB-friendly or lacks LGB-specific resources and training
- An LGB-friendly treatment center is too far away from where you live
- This may be especially true for people in rural areas or in places with limited healthcare options. If you don’t have a lot of choice in who you can see for treating breast cancer, you may want to take extra time to consider whether you want to come out
If you are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, you may feel added pressure to decide whether you’ll come out to your breast cancer care team. Unlike your counterparts with early-stage disease, this diagnosis means you will actively deal with breast cancer for the rest of your life.
Your treatment will focus on shrinking the cancer and stopping it from spreading further, as well as managing your symptoms and side effects. You and your care team may meet regularly to monitor your treatment.
As a result, you may see extra benefit in coming out. Or you may feel more anxious.