A first-of-its-kind LGBTQ+ cancer symposium scheduled for June 2-3 is part of Cedars-Sinai’s effort to equalize healthcare access and treatment for all, including patients who identify as LGBTQ+.
Studies have shown that the way LGBTQ+ patients are screened, diagnosed and treated for cancer may put them at a significant disadvantage compared to cisgender heterosexual patients.
To help overcome the disparities in healthcare, teams at Cedars-Sinai Cancer – and across the broader health system – are uniting to better include the science and voices of LGBTQ+ people on cancer care through community engagement and policies that influence health disparities.
“We recognize that by examining the intersection of sexual orientation, gender and cancer, we can better prevent, detect and cure cancer,” said Dr. B.J. Rimel, a gynecological oncologist and medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Cancer Clinical Trials Office. “To make meaningful change, we must continue to ask ourselves where the disparities are, then identify how best to address them. While this process can be challenging, recognizing disparities is the first step to repairing them.”
Rimel and Cedars-Sinai Cancer leadership, including Cedars-Sinai Cancer director Dr. Dan Theodorescu, are hosting a first-of-its-kind LGBTQ+ cancer symposium in Los Angeles on June 2-3.
“We must build national and international awareness to the specific cancer issues that affect our LGBTQ+ patients and discuss how to overcome barriers that impede the best care,” said Theodorescu, the PHASE ONE Foundation distinguished chair and professor of surgery and pathology and laboratory medicine. “We aspire to transform the practice of medicine by advancing and applying science and striving for a better understanding of all aspects of diversity. In doing so, we can achieve the highest impact.”
Rimel said one of the clearest examples of inequities and disparities is in gendered cancer screening.
“We think of mammography as one of the most powerful tools we have against breast cancer,” he said. “But, if a person whose gender doesn’t fit that of a cisgender female walks into a mammography suite, or a community screening event, they might not be offered appropriate screening, or they might even receive suboptimal care.”
He said another example common in gynecological oncology is when a transmasculine patient calls the office in need of a pelvic ultrasound. The medical office staff might assume the patient, who has a male voice, called the wrong office, and direct them elsewhere without listening to their questions or concerns, Rimel said.
“If the medical office staff member who answered the phone knew this patient was transmasculine – because his patient records indicated this – they could have answered the phone saying, ‘Hello, sir. Can I help schedule your pelvic ultrasound?’ Capturing the data, including patient preferences and goals, and ensuring care teams have access to this data, are ways to undo inequities,” he added.
Within its electronic medical records, Cedars-Sinai has an option for patients to identify as multiple gender orientations, sexual orientations and sexual partner preferences. Capturing this information is one part of the solution, Rimel said.
“The other key element is educating providers to ask those hard questions and get comfortable using the correct language when they are asking them,” he added. “Continuing education and an openness to learn is critical.”
During the symposium, Rimel hopes attendees learn that it’s OK to ask questions and to approach conversations with LGBTQ+ patients with humility and curiosity.
“The second takeaway is a call for medical professionals and care teams to understand the disparities,” he said. “While enormous strides have been made, LGBTQ+ cancer patients don’t benefit from the same privileges or opportunities as other patients. As doctors, we have to be accountable for understanding what policies exist and how they impact all of our patients, including those who identify as LGBTQ+.”
For information, visit cedars.cloud-cme.com/course/courseoverview?P=5&EID=18135.
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