When it comes to prostate cancer, ‘gay men are erased,’ patients say

By Dan Avery

Prostate cancer is the most prevalent invasive cancer among men, affecting nearly one in eight at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But the unique challenges facing gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer have largely gone unaddressed.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are less likely to get regular prostate cancer screenings, and those who are diagnosed are less likely to have familial and social support, according to research cited by the National Institutes of Health. And if their health care provider is not culturally competent, gay and bisexual men are much less likely to understand how treatment will impact their quality of life.

“Those in large metropolitan areas may have the option of searching for an LGBT-welcoming provider, but most Americans don’t have a choice about who treats them.”

“Many LGBT people enter their cancer treatment wary,” Liz Margolies of the National LGBT Cancer Network told NBC News. “Those in large metropolitan areas may have the option of searching for an LGBT-welcoming provider, but most Americans don’t have a choice about who treats them.”

As a result, Margolies added, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients go back in the closet when they begin cancer treatment. Even if they don’t, providers often don’t ask about patients’ sexual behavior or identity, forcing them to bring the subject up themselves — sometimes again and again with each new specialist.

SHAME AND INHIBITION

Writer Perry Brass was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 2016. Three months later he had a radical prostatectomy, removing his entire prostate. Brass, then 68, was lucky: He lives in New York City, home to top-notch doctors and a medical community more informed about LGBTQ health.

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