Susan DiPronio at age 52, was diagnosed with breast cancer

Lesbians have a higher risk of breast cancer than other women, which is why it is important to stay informed.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer is bad enough, but having to navigate the medical system as a lesbian, bi woman, or trans person can make the experience even more difficult.

A breast cancer diagnosis places the patient in a minefield of worries, one of which might also be: will I be discriminated against, misunderstood, or mistreated during treatment? How will the medical profession react to my queer body, will it accept my identity, my sexuality, and that of my partner? How do you navigate sex and dating after breast cancer?

LGBTs affected by breast cancer, therefore, have unique concerns.

“We are different,” says Susan DiPronio, who identifies as lesbian and genderqueer and, at age 52, was diagnosed with breast cancer. “Our lifestyles, our lives, our personal history is different.”

“I was suspended from school at the age of 15 because I had to go be ‘cured’ of being queer,” she continues. “Straight people don’t get it. You fight all your life for your identity, and then something like breast cancer happens to you, and that’s a huge part of your identity, is your body.”

Susan felt like an outsider in breast cancer support groups and also among former friends. “I think that you’re kind of shunned. Part of it is because sexuality is so tied in with physicality, and it starts to change the physicality of who you are. If you’re older and you get breast cancer, that’s like a double whammy.”

DiPronio found that there were no resources specific to LGBTQ people with breast cancer, which is why she has come out in support of the guide released by Living Beyond Breast Cancer. “I was like, ‘Yes! Finally, somebody’s doing it!’ It was pretty exciting.”

She is on the cover of Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s new guide, Breast Cancer in Focus: Getting the Care You Need as a Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual Person. In the guide, resources and advice (from deciding whether to come out to your care provider to finding LGBTQ-friendly services) alternate with personal stories, reminding those diagnosed that they are not, after all, alone.