Analysis shows that individuals who are comfortable sharing their identities with providers are more likely to be satisfied with overall care.
Most individuals who have cancer and identify as LGBTQI+ said that they did not have access to health education materials tailored to their gender and/or sexual identity, regardless of the satisfaction with their overall cancer care, according to the results of a study presented at the 15th American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved.
“LGBTQI+ persons comprise a significant portion of our US general population, but there remain stark barriers to providing them with proper medical care equitable to that of their heterosexual and/or cisgendered counterparts,” Colin Burnett, MSc, a medical student in the T.H. Chan School of Medicine at UMass Chan Medical School, said in a statement.
Previous study results have shown that though cancer risk factors, such as alcohol use and smoking, are well researched, individuals who identify as LGBTQI+ may experience these risk factors differently.
These individuals may experience more systemic barriers as they seek medical treatment, so information and resources catering to these identities could help address disparities, investigators said.
Investigators identified 2250 individuals who are cancer survivors and identify LGBTQI+ who completed the OUT: National Cancer Survey. The National LGBT Cancer Network conducted the survey in 2020 and 2021.
Investigators classified survivors by the self-reported level of satisfaction with their overall cancer care. The survey results were evaluated to characterize the availability of LGBTQI+-tailored health education resources and the impact of these materials.
Approximately 60% of individuals said they lacked access to mental health resources specific to their LGBTQI+ identities during cancer care.
Approximately 56% indicated a desire for information specific to individual who identify as LGBTQI+ in their post-treatment care plans.
Investigators found that individuals who were comfortable sharing their identities with physicians were more likely to be satisfied with overall cancer care than those who reported feeling unsafe sharing their identities.
Overall, 92% of individuals reported satisfaction with their cancer care, but 3% had lower levels of satisfaction with their cancer care and felt unsafe sharing their gender or sexual identities.
The findings showed that those who felt unsafe sharing their identities were less than satisfied with their care compared with 3% of those who reported feeling safe sharing their identities.
“I encourage [physicians] to regularly ask their patients about their gender identities and sexual orientations and characterize care delivery with the unique needs and considerations of those identities in the context of their cancer. Many patients will appreciate providers first demonstrating openness and inclusivity to caring for patients in their community,” Burnett said.
Investigators concluded that while health care teams are working to make practices more LGBTQI+-friendly, the results of the study show that there is a need for more resources that pertain to these individuals.
Additionally, health care teams should focus on improving the cancer experience for individuals who are part of the LGBTQI+ community by focusing on making it safer for individuals to share their identities with their care team.
Most LGBTQI+ cancer patients lack resources tailored to gender/sexual identity. News release. September 16, 2022. Accessed September 16, 2022. Email.