NEW YORK, NY – The National LGBT Cancer Network, the first program in the country to address the needs of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people with cancer and those at risk, is pleased to announce that it has further expanded its officially approved directory of LGBT-friendly cancer screening facilities to cover 330 additional facilities. A previous New York State grant had limited the Center to the five boroughs of NYC, but the directory was first expanded to thirteen additional states and the District of Columbia in November 2011. The expansion was made possible by a generous grant from The Palette Fund; thanks to their generosity, the directory now covers facilities in most states. The Network is currently seeking to add facilities in those states not yet covered, with the goal of ensuring that all LGBT people in the US are within driving distance of a facility where they know they will be welcomed.
Transgender Treatment that is right
Critically, the directory now includes a starred designation for facilities that have shown an exceptional commitment to transgender health. Many other cancer screening facilities are, if not outright hostile, unaware of how to treat transgender patients. This means, for instance, that a transgender man seeking a mammogram may be asked to don a pink robe or sit in the women’s waiting room – a humiliating experience. At both the starred facilities and any of the other facilities in the directory, transgender patients can join lesbians, gays, and bisexuals in resting assured that they will not be discriminated against.
Said Liz Margolies, Executive Director of the National LGBT Cancer Network: “We have selected each facility for inclusion based on its commitment to offering safe, affordable, welcoming care to all LGBT people. Each has demonstrated proven cultural competence in respecting the bodies, histories, and families of LGBT patients. We will research additional facilities and expand the list until every LGBT person in the country is within driving range of a safe and welcoming facility where they will be respected, and are offering our cultural competence training, Reexamining LGBT Healthcare, to facilities that want to be included but do not yet have the knowledge or training to warrant inclusion in our database.
“These facilities stand out from other medical facilities that conduct cancer screenings, at which LGBT patients often face a combination of ignorance and discrimination in accessing health care. While homophobia and transphobia among healthcare providers is declining, it is still very much in existence. One out of 5 transgender patients has been turned away by a health care provider. Even well-meaning providers have little training or experience with the LGBT population and our health risks. On average, medical students receive under 5 hours of training on LGBT issues in their entire medical education. To address these concerns from patients, we have included, wherever possible, a contact person at each facility who has agreed to shepherd members of the LGBT community through the process of being screened.
“Because LGBT people are far less likely to have health insurance, with transgender people having the lowest rates of all, the directory includes a number of facilities that do not require health insurance. Transgender people with insurance in their true gender also face the difficulty of getting screened for cancers in body parts that do not match the sex on their insurance card. For example, a transgender woman will not be covered for prostate screening and a transgender man will not be covered for cervical cancer screening.
Cancer screening for the LGBT community members
“This new resources directory will help fill the urgent need for better cancer screening of the LGBT community. As a population, LGBT people are at increased risk of cancer, not due to any physiological differences, but behaviors, many of which result from the stress of living as sexual and gender minorities in this country. As a group, for example, lesbians drink more, smoke more, are less likely to have a biological child before age 30, and more likely to be overweight and eat a high-fat diet. All these increase their cancer risks considerably. Gay men have very high rates of HPV, the virus that can lead to anal cancer. In fact, anal cancer rates in this population are 40 times higher than in the general population. A simple screening procedure, an anal pap smear, can test for precancerous changes, but too few men are aware of the need for or existence of the test, or out to their provider who could then recommend it. Long-term HIV survivors are now also known to be at much greater risk for several types of cancer, including lung and renal cancer as well as anal cancer.
“My own partner, a transgender man, has never received a mammogram. Why? ‘Because it’s really hard for me to prioritize taking care of body parts I’d like to think don’t exist.’ But we must get screened and we must encourage those we love to do so too. As I always say: ‘If you love him, get him screened.’ The places listed in our facilities page are more safe and welcoming, but it takes more to overcome our fears and undo previous negative experiences. Go in packs; use the support of your social network. Go to one of the places listed on our website. Take care of that body.”
About the National LGBT Cancer Network
The National LGBT Cancer Network works to improve the lives of LGBT cancer survivors and those at risk by: educating the LGBT community about our increased cancer risks and the importance of screening and early detection; training health care providers to offer more culturally-competent, safe and welcoming care; and advocating for LGBT survivors in mainstream cancer organizations, the media and research. More information is available at www.cancer-network.org.