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Close up view of two people holding hands, person facing the camera wearing with shirt with button up cuffs, both hands are rich brown flesh tones with short nails
March 1, 2021
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Today’s blog is going to be a serious one I’m afraid. A call to action and a reminder that cancer can touch us all. March is Ovarian and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and throughout this month you’ll see Chrysalis talking about these most secret, dysphoric and challenging parts of our bodies.

As taboos get lifted it becomes easier to talk about those topics that previously people shied away from, not so long ago no one spoke about “the big C”, it was thought that a diagnosis was the end, and yet as medical research has progressed, as countless people have raised money for and fought for better cancer detection and treatment, as people have brought the sadness, fear and sorrow out of the shadows so things have been improved. Today I’m trying to help lift some more taboos, those about trans bodies, and trans healthcare, and the lack of trans awareness in health care.

Being trans does not increase your risk of developing ovarian or prostate cancers however the lack of trans awareness among healthcare providers means that trans people often avoid seeking support from the right people in good time. During my research I discovered that Prostate Cancer UK have an article specifically for prostate cancer in transfeminine people with all the right language yet Cancer Research UK is still using exclusionary language.

Rather like my earlier blog with hints and tips for being an ally this blog is likely to be a bit of a tag it and save one, a few bullet points for the memory banks. Some thoughts for healthcare providers and a shout out to trans people to look out for symptoms and to seek treatment.

Top tips

  1. Use non-gendered language in all materials: people born with ovaries, people with prostates
    1. Remember that gender neutral includes everyone (and saves those tedious lists to make sure you have exhaustively included all
  2. Use something other than pink when talking about gynaecological issues
  3. Remember trans people may feel particularly disconnected from their reproductive organs
  4. When someone changes their gender marker at your surgery how do you ensure that they still receive essential screening updates?
  5. Transfeminine people on HRT are likely to have lower PSA levels (the test for prostate cancer) as a result of their HRT which could mask a positive cancer test

Ovarian cancer

  • Accounts for about 4% of all diagnosed cancers in those born with ovaries (6th most common cancer)
  • If caught early the 5 year survival rate is over 90%
    • it’s rarely caught early
  • Use of testosterone has not been linked to an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer

Key risk factors

  • Personal history of other cancers such as breast or colon cancer
  • Family history of ovarian cancer
  • You are Caucasian, particularly if you are an Ashkenazi Jew
  • You are over 50
  • You are obese
  • You smoke

Symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms almost daily and they continue for more that a few weeks then see your GP

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full too quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
  • Additional symptoms may include fatigue, indigestion, back pain and constipation.

Prostate cancer

  • If you’re born with a prostate it’s yours for the whole of your life. No gender affirmation surgery will remove it.
  • If you develop prostate cancer despite being on hormone treatment, this could indicate a more aggressive form of the disease
  • Transfeminine people may have a slighly higher incidence of non-cancerous prostate problems such as an enlarged prostate or prostatitis
  • Genital reconstructive surgery can cause urinary symptoms and pain which could be confused with symptoms of prostate problems

Key risk factors

  • You are aged 50 or over
  • A close relative with a prostate has had prostate cancer (e.g. your sibling)
  • You are black

Symptoms

Don’t fret in silence, speak to your GP, all of these symptoms can be indications of other, benign issues.

  • Difficulty starting to urinate or emptying your bladder
  • A weak flow when you urinate
  • A feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly
  • Dribbling urine after you finish urinating
  • Needing to urinate more often than usual, especially at night
  • A sudden need to urinate – you may sometimes leak urine before you get to the toilet.

You can help

If you are interested in getting involved with helping Chrysalis spread the word about making healthcare trans friendly and raising awareness about cancer to trans people and their loved ones then get in touch. We may have a project for you.

Thank you for reading, I hope that you can now go and enjoy this wonderful sunshine. The clouds of tree pollen drifting across the sky and the sound of lawnmowers breaking the silence.

Resources

2017 study on cancers in transgender people

2016 guidelines for cancer screening in transgender people

Two resources from the National LGBT Cancer Network

And specifically about ovarian cancer in trans men

Read Ezra’s story about developing ovarian cancer and being misdiagnosed

Much more information about prostate cancer for transfeminine people

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