It’s day 9 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Today, let’s cover breast cancer and how it affects the LGBTQIA+ Community—Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer/Questioning Intersex Asexual Plus other gender identities outside of Cis Heterosexual (Straight). Cancer doesn’t discriminate, but people, particularly those in power, can and do. Fortunately, there are resources available to help people in these communities navigate the healthcare system, including cancer care. My focus is on breast cancer, but some of the resources provided in the list below are more general and include multiple types of cancer care.
LGBTQIA+ people often experience discomfort and discrimination during healthcare encounters (and in the current political climate, in their communities and at the hands of politicians who challenge their very right to exist), which may account for reduced odds of receiving annual mammography screenings among some members of the community. This is especially true for trans persons who experience difficulty finding providers who understand their unique needs and who can or will perform appropriate screenings (e.g. breast and pelvic exams for trans men, prostate exams for trans women). One glaring example from my neck of the woods is a recent attack on Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Transgender Clinic by Republican state legislators. Early detection is key to a positive outcome when it comes to cancer, and anything that creates a barrier to seeking and receiving essential health screenings, including bigotry, can cause unnecessary pain, suffering, and death.
LGBTQ populations have the highest reported rates of tobacco and alcohol use compared to non-LGBTQ populations, which increases cancer risk and correlates with a disproportionate number of LGBTQ individuals living with cancers, including anal, breast, cervical, colorectal, endometrial, lung, and prostate (click here for reference). The intersection of identities (race/ethnicity, disability, cultural) and socioeconomic status compounds inequities in care and screening and disparities in survival and quality of care and life (click here for reference). Clearly, there is need for accessible and tailored cancer care for LGBTQIA+ populations in every location. The same issues with insurance coverage, transportation and accessibility, and availability of care that plague urban and rural communities, respectively, still apply.
What’s available now? There are several resources to help LGBTQIA+ persons with cancer screenings and cancer care. Not enough, but the ones in place are a great start:
Cancer considerations for LGBTQIA+, including checklists and guides for communicating your needs and concerns to your healthcare providers: https://www.accc-cancer.org/docs/documents/oncology-issues/articles/2019/nd19/nd19-cancer-care-considerations-for-sexual-and-gender-minority-patients.pdf?sfvrsn=d116445f_19
Resource lists curated by Cancer.Net: https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/finding-social-support-and-information/resources-lgbtq-people-with-cancer
Support provided from CancerCare.org: https://www.cancercare.org/tagged/lgbtq+
The National LGBTQ Cancer Project: https://www.lgbtcancer.org/
The National LGBT Cancer Network: https://cancer-network.org/
FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) for Hereditary Cancer: https://www.facingourrisk.org/portal/lgbtq
The National Coalition for LGBTQ Health: https://healthlgbtq.org/
Transgender Health Resources: https://www.glma.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageId=948&grandparentID=534&parentID=938
Transgender Patient Services from the Human Rights Campaign: https://www.thehrcfoundation.org/professional-resources/transgender-patient-services-support-resources-for-providers-and-hospital-administrators
Got any additional resources to add to my list? Please let me know! Knowledge is power, and everyone has the right to equitable and just healthcare!