In August 1993, a small group of women started a lesbian cancer support group to fill a void in health care by providing a supportive environment specifically designed to meet the special needs of lesbians with cancer and their self-identified families.
The Seattle Lesbian Cancer Project is a grassroots community-based organization that provides health education, outreach, resources, and support for lesbians affected by cancer. This includes publication of a monthly newsletter, access to a variety of early detection screening services, and providing no-cost cancer support groups. Liz Illg and Carol Anderson initiated the project with a small group of friends when the partner of one of them was diagnosed with cancer. It is located at 1122 E Pike Street, Suite 1333, Seattle.
Until February 1999, the Seattle Lesbian Cancer Project was a part of Gay Community Social Services. It is now (2000) incorporated with non-profit status and has hired a director and leased office space. The project staff (all part-time) includes a director, an outreach worker, and an administrative assistant. The organization offers three types of support groups: a casual support group that meets every other Tuesday, and two professionally facilitated support groups, one for women living with cancer, and the other for their self-identified families.
According to Project Director Sarah Reynolds, the organization is "one of four similar organizations nationwide that I am aware of." Reynolds notes, "We are really proud that we are also the only lesbian cancer project to offer separate support groups for women affected by cancer, and for their self-identified families. Most support groups meet as a single group. But the needs of a woman with cancer are different from those of their supporters."
The Mautner Project
"We are especially excited about some upcoming projects that have been initiated," says Ms. Reynolds. "SLCP has been chosen by The Mautner Project for Lesbians With Cancer, located in Washington, D.C., as a test site for a training of trainers on lesbian health care issues state-wide. This is another first nationally.
In May 2000, the Mautner Project will train 25 health educators recruited by the Seattle Lesbian Cancer Project to represent the state of Washington. Once trained, these health educators will in turn train 15 health care providers in their area. "Lesbians are at a higher risk within the female population for cancer in part because they don't see doctors as often as heterosexual women due to a lack of sensitivity from health professionals to their lifestyle."
The Seattle Lesbian Cancer project has (as of May 2000) received a grant from the King County Breast and Cervical Health Program to train the organization's 12 statewide primary contractors (clinics and health facilities) to work with the lesbian population. They will emphasize rural outreach, especially women living at poverty level who are over age 40. This regional effort resulted from the position taken by the national Center for Disease Control to focus on improving healthcare provided for lesbian and minority women.
A Pioneering Website
Along with other local health organizations, the Seattle Lesbian Cancer Project is helping to develop a groundbreaking website for gay men and lesbians about a broad range of non-HIV/AIDS health issues. Public Health -- Seattle and King County was awarded a grant from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine to facilitate access to electronic health information for sexual minorities. The website will mark the first time that a local public health department in the United States has included comprehensive, non-HIV/AIDS health information and referrals for lesbians and gay men.