- Cancer Information
- LGBTQI+ People and Cancer
- Coping with cancer
- Coming out to your cancer care team
Coming out to your cancer care team
At the time of the cancer diagnosis, you may or may not have come out as LGBTQI+, or you may be out to some of your friends, family and contacts but not others. Some people want to be out to their cancer care team, others feel it is not important, and some may not have a choice because information about their body is already in their medical records.
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Choosing to come out to your cancer care team may make it easier for you to discuss your needs, preferences and values, and can help ensure you receive culturally safe care. It also means that your treatment team can recommend the most appropriate treatments for you, give you relevant information and connect you to LGBTQI+ support groups.
Whether you feel safe coming out to your cancer care team may depend on whether you’re still questioning or exploring your identity, your past experiences of discrimination and prejudice, and whether you have been mistreated by other people after disclosing your sexual orientation, gender or intersex variation. It may also be influenced by how you felt when you came out to family and friends.
The reality of having cancer treatment is that you are asked to repeat your cancer experience multiple times with multiple doctors. You also need to decide whether to share your sexual orientation, gender or intersex variation with each health professional you meet. Coming out is a process, and it’s okay to come out slowly and when you feel ready. This can be stressful and emotionally draining, and you may be worried about how your health professionals will react.
Benefits and fears about coming out
Benefits of coming out
Fears about coming out
When you may not have a choice
Sometimes it may be medically necessary to share information with your cancer care team, so they have the information they need to make a diagnosis or recommend treatment. This could include which reproductive organs you were born with, whether you have an intersex variation, or whether any sex characteristics have changed over your life.
People with an intersex variation may not have a choice about how much to reveal to their cancer care team if these details are listed on their medical records, and you may find this upsetting. However, you may want to share your preferred terms for body parts and discuss how your intersex variation will impact your cancer care.
You can work with your doctors and treatment team to ensure your information is shared and discussed with respect, and that you are not outed or discriminated against.
What if I’m not out?
You may not be out to all your family and friends, and don’t want your cancer care team to share personal information with others. If you decide to come out to your cancer care team, they are legally required to keep your health information private and generally can’t share it without your permission. If you are worried about being outed, it can be helpful to let your cancer care team know.
I came out as gay just before I was diagnosed. I was still very uncomfortable with myself. And then I was diagnosed with cancer and that took precedence.CARTER (GAY MAN, LEUKAEMIA)
Podcast: Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis
The information on this page is also available for download.
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.