Treating Cancer in the LGBTQ Community

Studies have shown that members of the LGBTQ community are at elevated risk for several cancers, including anal, breast, cervical, colorectal, endometrial, lung, and prostate cancers.

This elevated risk is due to a variety of factors–for men who have sex with men, higher rates of anal cancer may be due to higher risk of HPV transmission since HPV is the primary cause of anal cancer, and for women who have sex with women, higher breast cancer rates may be partially due to elevated experience of risk factors like reduced pregnancy rates, smoking, and obesity. A 2017 study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine surveyed oncology providers about, among other things, their knowledge of LGBTQ-specific health issues and risk factors for the types of cancer that they treat.

The survey results indicate that while 91.7% of participants (N=36, all specialists in the seven cancer types with known or suspected LGBTQ-specific disparities) believed that the LGBTQ population had unique health risks and needs, only 36.1% actively inquired about sexual orientation while taking a history, and 72.2% stated that they assumed that a patient was heterosexual upon first encounter,. Though the majority of respondents stated that they were comfortable treating LGBTQ patients, very few felt they were well-informed on LGBTQ health needs. This disparity reflects the lack of LGBTQ-competency training for oncology providers and in medical education more broadly, which can then result in health disparities between LGBTQ patients and their non-LGBTQ peers.

The authors provide this key takeaway: “The provision of quality healthcare is dependent upon not equality, but equity. Specifically, patients should not all be given the same treatment, but quality treatment based on their own individual needs.”

You can access the full text in the Journal of Clinical Medicine here: http://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/6/10/93