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LGB cancer patients’ experience to be investigated

Posted: 7th March 2019

The specific needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people who have experienced cancer is to be the focus of a new national study in Scotland.

Currently, information about the sexual orientation of patients who have undergone cancer treatment is not captured by the NHS. This study will be the first research project in Scotland to look at the experience of LGB people who have received treatment for cancer. The aim is to better understand the experiences that LGB people have had during their cancer care journey and to establish if services need to be adapted to meet LGB patient care needs.

Gareth Hill, Head of Therapeutic Radiography at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee is conducting this research as part of his PhD at Queen Margaret University. He is looking for 12 people over the age of 18, who have undergone cancer treatment in the last 10 years in Scotland, to participate in the study.

He explained: “Statistic show that LBG people are more likely to experience isolation and mental health problems than heterosexuals, so LBG individuals may have care and support needs that are not being met by our current service provision.

“We want to encourage people to reflect on their experience of cancer treatment. We need to treat people as individuals so that we can truly develop services that focus on person-centred care rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

He continued: “Homosexual acts were only decriminalised in Scotland in 1980 and same sex marriage was just legalised in 2014. Therefore, many LGB people will have spent large proportions of their lives not being open about their sexuality. Over the last decade, there has been a massive cultural shift, but there are still people who struggle to discuss their sexuality and its impact on different aspects of their lives. We need to be mindful of people’s individual circumstances relating to possible lack of family support, loneliness, isolation and other health issues.”

Scotland is known for embracing diversity and the study presents opportunities to share best practice with other countries, but also to identify what care approaches and services could work better for the LGB community.”

Gareth has been delighted by the enthusiastic reception his study has received from health professionals and different organisations. He explained: “It is NHS policy in Scotland to deliver person-centred care. If LGB people’s sexual orientation is an important part of the cancer care experience, we need to understand their values, beliefs and culture to better support individuals through the process.”

This study has been made possible by a grant of £25k from the College of Radiographers Research Industry Partnership Scheme (CoRRIPS). Gareth was successful in securing one of only two doctorial fellowships provided by the CoRRIPS each year.

To find out more about the study contact Gareth Hill at E: ghill1@qmu.ac.uk.

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