Concerns that lesbians face higher risk factors for cancer and often receive inadequate information about the disease have prompted a wide-ranging public forum in Sydney next week.

Australian lesbian health expert Dr Ruth McNair and US professor Suzanne Dibble will assess the challenges and misconceptions relating to lesbians and cancer at the event next Tuesday.

Organised by ACON and the Australian Lesbian Medical Association, the forum will see Melbourne GP McNair discuss why lesbians might be less likely to have cancer screenings.

There was a survey in Victoria a couple of years ago by the Cancer Council, which interviewed lesbians at Midsumma, McNair told Sydney Star Observer.

Something like nine percent had been told by healthcare providers that they didn’t need a pap smear [because they were lesbians], even though they do.

McNair, co-founder of the Australian Lesbian Medical Association, will also look at how lesbians can improve relationships with their doctors.

Dibble, who set up the Lesbian Health Research Center at the University of California in San Francisco, will discuss research suggesting many lesbians have higher risk factors for cancer, such as smoking or not having children.

The latter can increase the risk of things like ovarian cancer, McNair said.

The forum at ACON in Surry Hills will focus on the cancers diagnosed most commonly in women, including breast cancer and cancer of the cervix.

It will also look at how lesbians and bisexual women can get more support from the healthcare system and each other. The forum is open to lesbians and bisexual women as well as people working in health care.

Meantime, on Monday 20 November ACON will co-host a consultation for female cancer survivors and those living with cancer about a possible support group. The event is at the NSW Cancer Council, 153 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo, from 6:45pm.

ACON is also looking for inspirational stories for a new publication about lesbians and cancer. To contribute, contact Mahamati on 9206 2084 or

The lesbian cancer forum is on Tuesday 14 November, 6:30pm at ACON, 9 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills. RSVP on 9206 2084.

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