Symposium Encourages Better Care for LGBTQ+ Patients

By Steve Blanchard - March 06, 2019

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community has long been a medically-underserved minority population in the United States. Disparities experienced by LGBTQ patients, especially in cancer care, can lead to poorer outcomes and overall health. 

On Friday, March 22, Moffitt Cancer Center will host an LGBTQ+ Oncology Care Symposium, which will teach its clinical care team and healthcare providers in the community best care and practices for LGBTQ+ people with cancer.

“The LGBTQ+ community is underserved and the best way for us to correct that is to provide the proper education,” said Dr. Desiree Chachula, Moffitt’s Diversity and Inclusion manager. “This symposium will put a spotlight on a community that includes our neighbors and our friends. Better serving LGBTQ+ people with cancer is the motivation behind this symposium.”

Join us for the LGBTQ+ Oncology Awareness Symposium

When: March 22, 2019 from 12-5:30 p.m.
Where: Moffitt's Vincent A. Stabile Research Building

Click Here to Register

Guest speakers include Liz Margolies, LCSW (executive director of the LGBT Cancer Network in New York City), Dr. Patricia Emmanuel (USF Health Chief of Pediatrics and a founder of Ybor Youth Clinic), Dr. Matthew Schabath (Associate Member of Moffitt’s Department of Epidemiology), Dr. Gwendolyn Quinn (Livia S. Wan M.D. Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at NYU Langone Health), as well as a panel of oncologists, researchers, patients and community members who will share their perspectives on the importance of inclusive healthcare for LGBTQ people.

“Living as LGBTQ people, we have increased cancer risks, lower screening rates and additional challenges in survivorship,” said Margolies. “Right now there aren’t numbers about the community because none of the cancer registries ask about orientation or gender identity. The research that we do have available suggests that LGBTQ people have higher mortality rates.”

Margolies hopes that those who hear her speak will understand the importance of having the appropriate data that represents the LGBTQ community. She pointed to studies on health disparities in the black/African-American community to provide context.

“Right now we don’t know the reasons for LGBTQ mortality rates,” she said. “Collecting that information is key. For example, in terms of race, we know that white women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer while black women are more likely to die from it. That helps medical professionals develop standard protocols, which are hugely important. That should be the ultimate goal for the LGBTQ community as well.”

According to a national survey led by Schabath and initiated by Moffitt to identify potential gaps in attitudes, knowledge and institutional practices for LGBTQ patients, 65.8 percent of oncologists agreed that it is important to know the gender identity of their patients. Additionally, 39.6 percent of oncologists said it is important to know a patient’s sexual orientation and 70.4 percent of oncologists were interested in receiving education regarding the unique health needs of LGBTQ patients.

“Three to 12 percent of the U.S. adult population identifies as LGBTQ,” said Schabath. “Studies show the LGBTQ population has an increased risk and poorer outcomes for certain cancers, but despite that increased risk, they are less likely to go to the doctor for screenings. This group also reported lower satisfaction with cancer care. Our survey identified there is need and a desire among oncologists for education and training about LGBTQ patients.” 

The symposium has several goals. Participants will:

  • Gain proficiency in current terms and concepts regarding sexual and  gender minorities
  • Be able to identify primary care needs in cancer preventative health for LGBTQ+ individuals, including cancer screenings
  • Be able to define social determinants of health and unique barriers to care for LGBTQ+ people and cancer care
  • Understand how to provide a safe healthcare space

“There is a direct relationship between discrimination and illness,” Margolies said. “If you look at the mortality rates for LGBTQ people who live in areas with high LGBTQ bias, we die 12 years sooner. Discrimination can literally take 12 years off of someone’s life. Events like this can have a huge and positive impact on that statistic.”

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