Early detection and awareness benefits everyone

Lezlie Lee Kam

A Trinidadian native and proud member of the Canadian LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community, Lezlie Lee Kam is a true believer in volunteer work and in giving back to those who help others. Actively supporting LGBTQ rights since 1976, she was instrumental in helping young lesbian women, especially women of colour, come out to their friends and family. Today at 59 years old, Lezlie is not only an active member of the Senior Pride Network, she’s now also a role model for cancer screening in LGBTQ communities.

It all started when Lezlie completed a routine fecal occult blood test (FOBT) six years ago. The test, which checks for hidden blood in the stool, came back positive. Concerned by the results, she didn’t want to take any chances with her health and immediately followed her doctor’s instructions to schedule additional tests.

Without delay, a colonoscopy was in order for Lezlie. It uncovered that she had precancerous polyps in her colon. While shocked to learn that cancer was lurking in her body, she’s thankful the growths were found early and removed before it was too late.

“I think there is a misconception in LGBTQ communities that because we are not straight, we are somehow immune from being diagnosed with cancer,” explained Lezlie. “I too never thought this could happen to me.”

Realizing it was her own diligence about having a FOBT regularly that prevented cancer, Lezlie decided to make it her mission to share her story with her friends, family and others in LGBTQ communities. She wanted to make them aware that cancer can happen to anyone and encourage them to be proactive by getting screened for colorectal cancer.

“I want to tell others in LGBTQ communities that this misconception must end and that we need to get serious about cancer screening,” says Lezlie.

When she started to tell her friends about colorectal cancer screening, none of them were aware that the FOBT even existed. In fact, many of her LGBTQ friends didn’t think that getting screened for cancer was important.

“There definitely isn’t enough outreach directed to LGBTQ communities about cancer awareness and I think this matter needs to change.”

Screening Saves Lives: Promoting cancer screening in LGBTQ communities

Launching in time for Pride 2013, the Canadian Cancer Society’s Screening Saves Lives aims to raise awareness about colorectal, breast and cervical cancer screening in Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto’s LGBTQ communities. As part of this new initiative, we will be training volunteers to speak to their friends, families and social networks about the importance of cancer screening, developing cancer prevention materials, including a website, specific to LGBTQ communities, working with community partners to provide training for health care providers, and organizing LGBTQ cancer screening opportunities.

This year, Lezlie volunteered to model for our Screening Saves Lives initiative because she believes that more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people need to know about how cancer screening can save lives. Learn more about Screening Saves Lives and how to get involved by visiting cancer.ca/getscreened.

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