Written by Guest Writer Michael Russo, Student Nurse
Well, hello there, everyone. My name is Michael Russo. I am many things: former medical student, current nursing student in an accelerated nursing program, foodie, avid Nicholas Sparks reader (yes I read Nicholas Sparks; although the plots are beginning to melt into one and leaving me knowing the end before I start), and New York native. Yes, these are entities I am proud of but what I am most proud of and what puts a huge smile on my face is that I am Adam Sass’s boyfriend. If you haven’t figured it out or seen it for yourself…he is the creator and writer of Stay On Fountain!
I have been wanting to write an article for sometime now, and I am always thinking about impact. How can one make their impact in a world such as today? It is pretty nuts out there in terms of everyone and anyone trying to pierce the bubble of mediocrity. Many times throughout my life I have pondered this but over the years, after a little growing up has set in, I learned to be truthful to myself and what I wanted from life (Re: 2008 to 2010 was a blur but clearly not for me: medical school). The impact part started to melt into “how can I make a difference?” After amassing quite a bit of medical knowledge and taking some big chances, I am now where I want to be and have always wanted to be: training to be a nurse. In my heart, this is the best way I can make a difference. I am extremely happy, and most importantly, I met Adam :)
Enough about me (although I could easily gush about the last sentence forever). Throughout this healthcare journey of mine, I have seen many topics that have been brought up in the news such as visitation rights and issues related to guardianship related to the LGBT community. Aside from seeing many afflictions, there are so many social aspects that I am a witness to on a day-to-day basis. Some days this is a blessing and others quite the cross to bear.
I would love to sit here (I would actually love to sit here all night and type everything related to the aforementioned, but I have a pathology exam tomorrow that I should be studying for right now but the inspiration for this article just came to me) and discuss these issues, but I feel most importantly at this time we have to put the HEALTH back in HEALTHCARE. There are issues beyond visitation rights (which I repeat are extremely important and should never be overlooked) that necessitate an extra look that don’t always receive such. I am talking about the isolated health concerns related to gays and lesbians everywhere.
Let’s preface this discussion with Healthy People 2010 - a nationwide plan of health promotion and disease prevention. This plan looks to attain such goals by 2010 (we are passed that, yes, but an important part was included: clear and concise goals that are specific to the gay and lesbian populations). A major goal of this plan was to identify the obstacles to healthcare.
1. Many LGBT individuals DO NOT go to healthcare providers when they are ill. As a result this may increase risk of some cancers due to avoiding prophylactic surveillance or even just not going when something is suspected (PAP smear (for cervical cancer), digital rectal exam (for prostate cancer), mammography (for breast cancer), etc). And most important, the emotional and mental component of not going to a healthcare provider out of fear of being LGBT only induces stress ,and this can ravage the human body with all sorts of sicknesses).
2. Lesbians (or as the research has dubbed it so lovingly “women who have sex with women”) are at a higher risk for breast cancer, cervical cancer and ovarian cancer. Again most of these issues are due to LOWER SCREENING rates.
3. Gay males (again, the loving title of “men who have sex with men”) are at a higher rate of colorectal cancer. This is as a result of HPV (human papilloma virus; Gardasil is now being given to males for this reason). Research has shown that gay men have a higher progression of LOW to HIGH grade lesions. Anal cancer is very much higher in the gay male population.
4. Another issue coming to the forefront is that of prostate cancer. Many gay males including the African American population have lower screening rates.
5. SCREENING! SCREENING! SCREENING! It cannot be stressed enough, it sounds silly to say but I scream this to the lesbian population: Please make PAP smears and mammogram visits yearly. It will literally save your life. And I say this to all gay males: a digital rectal exam is MOST important for prostate cancer prevention, as well as colorectal cancer prevention.
I must plug in a good friend – the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Every year they give us these lovely recommendations to abide by. I will whole-heartedly carry this message on and tell everyone out there, especially the gay and lesbian population. Gay males, they recommend that we receive syphilis serology (a mostly eradicated affliction that manages to peak its ugly head in EVERY now and then; this is an option they will check off on the blood test report and they will look to see if you have a syphilis infection), screening for gonorrhea and chlamydia (these 2 bugs like to infect someone TOGETHER), of course HIV/AIDS screening, and it is crucial that we receive vaccinations against hepatitis A and B (they can lead to liver cancer if untreated). Lesbians are urged to get the HPV immunization as well as HIV/AIDS screening (studies have shown that they have a lower risk of attaining syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia).
These are the most important entities everyone should hold as the utmost important in their repertoire of daily activities. Health should be at the top of everyone’s list. Health extends from eating right, working out, exercising your mind as well and making healthcare provider appointments HABIT. It is apart of the scope of all those amazing New Year’s resolutions everyone hopes to attain at least by the following November (sarcasm). But don’t let that be you. Get everything in order this year. Make a running list of all the things to check out at the healthcare provider, make an appointment, and get it done!
I will conclude this article in the best way that I can and that is by reminding YOU that YOU are the most important person. Please take care of yourself. Thank you