Cancer knows no boundaries. While certain types of cancer may be more prevalent in males than females, and vice versa, the healthcare world is exploring factors beyond gender lines.
For the LGBTQ population, often challenges and roadblocks exist before they can access care in the first place. Research suggests that seven types of cancer disproportionately impact the LGBTQ community, including:
- Uterine cancer, specifically endometrial cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Lung cancer
- Anal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Colorectal cancer
As September is simultaneously Uterine and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, it’s an opportune time to share some LGBTQ-specific facts about each.
Uterine Cancer and LGBTQ Patients
LGBTQ Health Channel shares that bisexual, lesbian and other women who have sex with women (WSW) may be at a greater risk for uterine cancer. Specific risk factors include:
- Alcohol abuse
- Giving birth after age 30
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Nulliparity, or not child-bearing
Women who are diabetic with a high-fat diet are more likely to develop endometrial cancer. Hormone balance also makes an impact.
Prostate Cancer and LGBTQ Patients
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reviewed literature between 2000 – 2015 to discover trends among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBM) with prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the leading cancer among GBM patients, and the second most common cancer among men in the U.S. Risk factors include a fatty diet, HIV status, and poor doctor-patient communication, among several others.
GBM (and WSW patients) are often less likely to have cancer screenings due to this barrier.
“Case and media reports identify homophobia as an additional barrier to digital rectal examinations as part of prostate cancer screening,” according to the NIH.
Support for LGBTQ Cancer Patients
To better understand these trends and roadblocks, practices should collect the appropriate data — in an appropriate manner.
“To identify and address potential health disparities among LGBTQ populations, it is imperative to collect accurate sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data which are often not collected in medical records and research databases,” according to the Cancer and the LGBTQ Population paper published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. “When SOGI data are not collected in the healthcare delivery setting, there may be a missed opportunity to discuss prevention, early detection, and screening for LGBTQ subgroups that may be at an increased risk for certain cancers.”
Not only is there importance in collecting the right data, practitioners also need to know what to do with that information — and apply it to their practice for the betterment of their patients.
“Despite the barriers and disparities that many LGBTQ people with cancer face, scientists and medical professionals are actively working toward identifying, understanding, and eliminating these health disparities,” according to Dr. Matthew Schabath in his Cancer.net perspective.
For example, National Institutes of Health (NIH) is advancing its research on LGBTQ patient health through its Sexual & Gender Minority Research Office. Many medical organizations, including the Institute of Medicine and the American Association of Medical Colleges, have also issued strong recommendations for improved health care practitioner training.
Only 47.2% of providers surveyed in the Cancer and the LGBTQ Population paper believed they were well-informed about health trends of their LGBTQ patients, and developing cultural competency is a critical step in addressing the disparities.
Cancer prevention and treatment is everyone’s responsibility. Dina Proto International, Inc. provides this important training for healthcare professionals and practices alike. Ultimately, more LGBTQ-friendly providers translates to better outcomes.
American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Cancer Facts for Lesbian and Bisexual Women. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/healthy/cancer-facts/cancer-facts-for-lesbian-and-bisexual-women.html
LGBTQ Health Channel. (2006, May 8). Cancer (WSW). Retrieved from https://www.lgbthealthchannel.com/wswcancer.html
National Insittutes of Health. (2016, Feb. 1). Prostate Cancer in Gay, Bisexual, and Other Men Who Have Sex With Men: A Review. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4770844/
Tamargo, C. et al. (2017, October 6). Cancer and the LGBTQ Population: Quantitative and Qualitative Results from an Oncology Providers’ Survey on Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practice Behaviors. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664008/
Schabath, M. (2021, January 21). The Barriers to Care Faced by LGBTQ People With Cancer: An Expert Perspective. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.net/blog/2021-01/barriers-care-faced-lgbtq-people-with-cancer-expert-perspective