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Survey Suggests LGBTQI+ Latinx Community Not Receiving Tailored Cancer-related Information and Health Care

SAN FRANCISCO – Most LGBTQI+ Latinx have been afraid to share their gender identity and/or sexual orientation with a health care provider and most have never received LGBTQI+-tailored information on cancer prevention and screening, according to survey results presented at the 12th AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved, held here Sept. 20-23.

”LGBTQI+ individuals experience substantial cancer health disparities, including being at higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, as do Latinx individuals of all sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Mayra Serrano, MPH, CHES, manager of the Center of Community Alliance for Research & Education at City of Hope in Duarte, California. “The LGBTQI+ Latinx community, therefore, faces the combined effects of being a racial/ethnic minority and sexual/gender minority group.

“If we are to overcome cancer health disparities for the LGBTQI+ Latinx community, we must first understand the needs of the community,” Serrano continued. “Working with the LatinX Task Force, which is a collaboration between organizations and agencies in the Los Angeles area to create awareness and prevention of cancer in marginalized populations, we conducted a needs assessment survey to help guide future outreach and education efforts to better meet the needs of the LGBTQI+ Latinx community.”

Serrano and colleagues generated an online needs assessment survey to understand cancer-related knowledge and behavior within the LGBTQI+ Latinx community. Respondents were recruited at outreach events throughout Southern California. Upon completion of the survey, respondents were entered into a raffle to win a $50 gift card.

As of June 2019, 176 respondents have completed the survey. One hundred and thirty (74 percent) of the respondents identified as Latinx, 35 (20 percent) did not specify their racial/ethnic identity, seven (4 percent) identified as mixed race, and one identified as Asian, one as European, one as Native American, and one as Pacific Islander. One hundred and forty-four (82 percent) identified as cisgender, meaning they exclusively identified as their sex assigned at birth, 70 (40 percent) identified as gay, and 49 (28 percent) identified as queer.

Seventy-three percent of the respondents reported having been afraid to share their gender identity and/or sexual orientation with a health care provider. “This strongly suggests that most health care providers are not culturally competent,” said Serrano.

Serrano explained that examples of a lack of health care provider cultural competency include not using gender neutral terms during conversation and in written materials, and assuming that individuals identify as cisgender and heterosexual during conversations about sexual activity and the need for birth control.

According to Serrano, key responses related to knowledge of cancer prevention and screening included:

  • 91 percent of respondents had never received LGBTQI+-tailored cancer information;
  • 60 percent of respondents ages 21 to 29 who were eligible for Pap testing had not had a test in the past three years, compared with 22 percent of all eligible individuals in the United States; and
  • 50 percent of respondents eligible for a mammogram had not had one in the past two years, compared with 29 percent of all eligible individuals in the United States.

“The survey results show that there is an urgent need for LGBTQI+ Latinx cultural competency training for health care providers and for LGBTQI+-tailored information regarding cancer screening and prevention,” said Serrano. “We are collaborating with the Latinx Task Force and local LGBTQI+ organizations to develop educational materials tailored to the LGBTQI+ Latinx community and to develop cultural competency training guides for health care providers.”

According to Serrano, the main limitations of the study were its small size and its lack of generalizability to all Latinx LGBTQI+ populations because it involved only those in Southern California.

Serrano declares no conflicts of interest.