Coping with cancer
A diagnosis of cancer can be difficult for any person to deal with. Research has shown that the outcomes of cancer and its treatment can be different for LGBTQI+ people.
Learn more about:
- How you might feel
- Dealing with feelings of sadness
- Diversity of experience
- Fear of discrimination
- Coming out to your cancer care team
- How to come out to your health professionals
How you might feel
After a cancer diagnosis and throughout treatment, it’s common to feel a range of strong emotions including anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, grief and resentment.
Research shows that LGBTQI+ people have a greater risk of mental and emotional distress after a cancer diagnosis for several reasons.
- You may feel anxious about coming out to health professionals.
- Fear being discriminated against because of your sexual orientation, gender or intersex variation.
- Worry about how cancer and its treatment will affect your identity or relationships.
Some people have faced stigma and shame for being LGBTQI+, and may blame themselves for getting cancer or feel judged by others.
It’s natural to feel vulnerable while having cancer treatment. If you are distressed, anxious or depressed, appropriate support and information is available.
For more information on coping with a cancer diagnosis, see Emotions and Cancer.
Pets can be an important part of the lives of many people. Talk to your local RSPCA to see whether they have a program that can help keep you and your pet together. If you are in hospital for an extended period, ask the ward staff whether you can organise a visit from your pet.
Dealing with feelings of sadness
If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common after a cancer diagnosis.
Everyone has their own way of coping with their emotions. There is no right or wrong way. It is important to give yourself, and those around you, time to deal with the strong emotions that cancer can cause. For support, call Cancer Council 13 11 20. People aged 12–25 can also call Canteen on 1800 835 932.
If you think you may be depressed, talk to your GP, because counselling or medication – even for a short time – may help. Some people can get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Cancer Council may also run a counselling program in your area.
To connect with LGBTI peer support, call QLife on 1800 184 527. For information about coping with depression and anxiety, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. For 24-hour crisis support, call Lifeline 13 11 14.
Podcast for people affected by cancer
We thank the chief investigators from the Out with Cancer research project: Prof Jane Ussher, Prof Janette Perz, Prof Martha Hickey, Prof Suzanne Chambers, Prof Gary Dowsett, Prof Ian Davis, Prof Katherine Boydell, Prof Kerry Robinson and Dr Chloe Parton. Partner investigators were Dr Fiona McDonald and A/Prof Antoinette Anazodo. Research Associates were Dr Rosalie Power, Dr Kimberley Allison and Dr Alexandra J. Hawkey.
We thank the reviewers of our LGBTQI+ People and Cancer booklet: Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Heath Psychology and Chief Investigator, Out with Cancer study, Western Sydney University, NSW; ACON; Dr Kimberley Allison, Out with Cancer study, Western Sydney University, NSW; Dr Katherine Allsopp, Supportive and Palliative Care Specialist, Westmead Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Antoinette Anazodo OAM, Paediatric and Adolescent Oncologist, Sydney Children’s Hospital, NSW; Megan Bathgate, Consumer; Gregory Bock, Clinical Nurse Consultant–Oncology Coordinator, Urology Cancer Nurse Coordination Service, WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network, WA; Morgan Carpenter, Executive Director, Intersex Human Rights Australia (formerly OII Australia); Prof Lorraine Chantrill, Medical Co-Director Cancer Services, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; A/Prof Ada Cheung, Endocrinologist, Head, Trans Health Research Group, Department of Medicine (Austin Health), The University of Melbourne, VIC; Bonney Corbin, Australian Women’s Health Network; Cristyn Davies, Research Fellow, Specialty of Child and Adolescent Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney and Children’s Hospital Westmead Clinical School, NSW; Prof Ian Davis, Professor of Medicine, Monash University and Eastern Health, Medical Oncologist, Eastern Health, Chair, ANZUP Cancer Trials Group, VIC; Rebecca Dominguez, President, Bisexual Alliance Victoria; Liz Duck-Chong, Projects Coordinator, TransHub and Trans Health Equity, ACON, NSW; Lauren Giordano, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Hall & Wilcox (law firm); Natalie Halse, BCNA Consumer Representative; Jem Hensley, Consumer; Prof Martha Hickey, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The University of Melbourne, and Director of the Gynaecology Research Centre, The Women’s Hospital, VIC; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker – Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Dr Laura Kirsten, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW; Amber Loomis, Policy and Research Coordinator, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia; Julie McCrossin and Melissa Gibson, Consumers; Dr Fiona McDonald, Research Manager, Canteen, NSW; Dr Gary Morrison, Shine a Light (LGBTQIA+ Cancer Support Group); Penelope Murphy, Cancer Council NSW Liaison, Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW; Dr Rosalie Power, Out with Cancer study, Western Sydney University, NSW; Jan Priaulx, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Paul Scott-Williams, Consumer; Simone Sheridan, Sexual Health Nurse Consultant, Sexual Health Services, Austin Health, VIC; Cheryl Waller and Rhonda Beach, Consumers.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.