February 22, 2019 at 2:36 pm EDT | by Staff reports
Medical world improving on gay issues
stethoscope, gay news, Washington Blade
LGBT health disparities pinpointed in recent studies. (Photo by stethoscopes; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

NEW YORK — There is increasing research and awareness in the medical world about the need for more inclusive and LGBT-friendly health care, WebMD reports. This is seen as especially important because research shows LGBT people face several health disparities, meaning they have higher rates of several conditions including mental health disorders, substance abuse problems, suicide and more.

A January study outlines the challenges in cancer care. It found the vast majority of 450 oncologists surveyed at the nation’s top 45 cancer centers say they’re comfortable treating LGBT patients, but most aren’t sure they fully understand the needs of this group of patients. Those numbers were especially stark with transgender patients, people whose gender identity does not match their biology at birth. The study found 83 percent of oncologists would be comfortable treating transgender patients, but only 37 percent felt they know enough to do so, WebMD reports. 

Researchers found an eagerness to learn — 70 percent of oncologists wanted health education about the health needs of LGBT people, and many do seem to need it, based on survey responses that show a lack of understanding about issues affecting these patients, WebMD reports. 

The study shows oncologists didn’t realize LGBT patients are more likely to spend time in the sun, smoke tobacco and have substance abuse problems. Many didn’t realize women are still at risk for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which raises the chances of having many other cancers, if they haven’t had sex with men. Cancer doctors also didn’t fully understand the family and personal dynamics, social stressors and lack of support networks that might be at play for LGBT patients, WebMD reports. 

This study is one of many new bodies of research looking to better understand LGBT patients and their needs and concerns. Others include:

• A November 2018 study that looked at fears that older LGBT patients have when they are dying in long-term care facilities. It found they worry about discrimination and their personal safety.

• And a study released this month that shows people who received hormone treatment as part of gender transitioning had a greater risk of stroke and heart attacks, WebMD reports. 

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