Let your doctor know you’re LGBTQ.
Each time you visit your primary care doctor or a specialist, you may fill out a questionnaire about health issues, habits and changes you’ve noticed. One question that is sometimes absent from those questionnaires could provide key information to your doctor: What is your sexual orientation?
Yes, it’s a personal question. But it’s one that’s vital to your health.
“Your doctor and any healthcare professional you interact with will keep your information private,” says Megan Moran-Sands, DO, a Geisinger pediatrician. “But knowing your sexual orientation is important, just like it’s crucial to know other vital information about your health because it can help us guide your preventive care.”
Each person’s health needs are unique, which is why you should have an honest conversation with your doctor. Research shows that LGBTQ individuals may be more likely to deal with certain health problems.
- Young LGBTQ individuals are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide. Your mental health is an important factor in your overall health and wellbeing.
- Gay men are at a higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV. Your doctor can encourage you to get tested for STDs and discuss risks with you.
- Lesbians are less likely to get preventive cancer screenings, such as mammograms and Pap tests. Your primary care doctor can discuss how often you should get cancer screenings and refer you to a specialist.
- Lesbian and bisexual women are also more likely to become overweight or obese. Your doctor can discuss diet, exercise and other factors that might contribute to your weight.
- Transgender individuals are at a higher risk for STDs, mental health issues and suicide, and are more likely to become a victim of physical or verbal abuse. Your doctor can discuss these issues with you and refer you to other professionals who can help.
“It's beneficial to share your sexual orientation with your doctor so you can get the most personalized care,” says Dr. Moran-Sands. “You can be more open about your life and your choices, and you and your doctor can work together to create a plan for staying healthy.”
If you currently see a primary care doctor, let them know of your sexual orientation, preferred pronouns and/or name during your next visit.
During your appointment, you can broach the subject in a way that’s the most comfortable for you. For instance, you can discuss the topic by asking about STD testing or simply by saying, “I’d like to have a conversation about something.”
If you don’t currently have a primary care doctor, or you’d like to find an LGBTQ-friendly doctor, you can turn to LGBTQ centers or friends for referrals who note they are LGBTQ-friendly. Also, if you do not feel supported by your provider, it may be time to find a new primary care provider.
When you call to make an appointment, ask if the doctor treats LGBTQ patients.
“If you’re still nervous about the appointment, you can bring a friend for support,” says Dr. Moran-Sands.
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