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Conference on
gays and cancer, October 13–14 in San Francisco

Conference on
gays and cancer, October 13–14 in San Francisco

Last year Marion Abdullah had just completed her chemotherapy treatments when she began attending a group for LGBT cancer survivors hosted by a local chapter of the American Cancer Society. The group sought to determine how to design more inclusive services for LGBT people.

Abdullah, now 70, is an active member of the community and said in a statement that it was natural for her to get involved with the group after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She didn't realize was just how groundbreaking the group was going to be. The group, determined to continue meeting after it had completed its original mission, went on to create and plan a first-of-its-kind "Cancer in Our Lives" conference for LGBT community members, researchers, and health professionals.

"A year ago when the cancer committee was talking about having this community discussion, we thought, 'There haven't been a lot of studies on this,' and we wanted doctors and researchers to pay attention," Jim Shattuck, community services director of the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, told the Bay Area Reporter. "When we realized GLMA was going to be in the city, we thought, 'Let's partner with them.'"

The conference is scheduled to be held Friday, October 13, at the Renaissance Parc 55 Hotel in conjunction with the annual Gay and Lesbian Medical Association conference, and Saturday, October 14, at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center. The conference will address several concerns, including LGBT people's unique cancer risks and experiences, the latest cancer research, and the necessity of culturally competent care.

"Historically speaking, lesbians have been talking about breast and gynecological cancers for a long time," Shattuck added. "But what's unique to this event is that in addition to lesbian we are bringing in gay men, we are looking at trans and intersex issues, and we are asking, 'What is specific to these populations and cancer screening guidelines?'"

Research in the field of LGBT cancer is limited. However, information will be presented at Friday's event to raise and answer questions such as whether some intersex conditions warrant cancer-preventative childhood surgeries, the effect of hormones on cancer, and how gay men can prevent anal cancer with annual Pap smears of their own.

"We need to educate providers that things aren't always what they appear and really put a face on this for people," Shattuck told the Reporter. "Because they're GLMA attendees, we don't have to make the case for culturally competent care; they've already got that part. But they need to go beyond that training--and beyond what they've learned in medical school--in order to be inclusive and accurately determine risk factors and cancer-screening guidelines."

Those planning to attend Friday are asked to RSVP so that enough food can be ordered. Those who also wish to attend the GLMA conference may do so at GLMA conference rates; check for scheduling and registration information.

Next Saturday's "Community Focus on Cancer" is free and will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Programs will include an overview of cancer incidence and risk reduction; spoken word performances; a financial, emotional, and legal workshop for caregivers; and small-group sessions. The conference overview and schedule are posted at For more information, call Marion Abdullah at (510) 223-9034. (The Advocate)

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