By Lakshmi Sundaresan, aspiring physician
Following the late night performances and fun on Saturday, I was feeling pretty tired going into the last day of the NQAPIA conference and nervous about leading my own workshop, but I was really happy to attend “LGBTQ AAPIs and Cancer: Another Unspoken Taboo” by Dr. Shail Maingi, Dr. Sean O’Mahony, and Dr. Samir Narang. The three have been working to identify primary challenges to cancer diagnosis, treatment, and end-of-life care in LGBTQ communities and make recommendations for the national guidelines in standardizing the continuum of care. They taught some of the risks, signs, and symptoms of sexually transmitted cancers and then opened discussion about emerging best practices for cancer care. I was impressed by how all three presenters are working to incorporate the experiences and recommendations of attendees on all of these topics.
Our Sunday morning crowd was small but had a really productive discussion about LGBTQ AAPI cancer treatment. More than other demographics affected by cancer, QT populations have worse outcomes from diagnosis. Why? Well, I imagine it may include common blocks to health care that LGBTQ and API people face regularly. We were left to ponder the question:
How do different forms of internalized body hatred and the sexualization of the Asian body affect how we seek and administer care?
During the course of our conversation, we talked about whether we knew LGBTQ AAPI cancer survivors and impediments in “marketing” cancer screening to these communities. The discussion highlighted how trans people may be reticent to perform examinations on body parts that are not part of their current gender identity. Challenges include factors ranging from medical professionals lacking cultural competency to un-standardized information for providers about best practices. Going forward, focusing on competent workforce development, diversity among providers, and data collection will raise the standard of care for members of the LGBTQ and API communities.
As an aspiring physician, it’s reassuring to see how medical professionals screening and treating cancer are moving toward improving different types of cultural competence, whether this competence manifests as sensitivity toward specific languages, or toward the language and culture of people who identify as LGBTQ and API. Personal stories are central in creating supportive and sensitive environments during cancer treatment, diagnosis, and end-of-life care. I’m really eager to see where this work leads and how NQAPIA’s networks will be able to shape provider sensitivity.