Action Alerts · Cancer · LGBT cancer

Behind Closed Drawers: a FUNdraising campaign for anal cancer

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When thinking about cancer, many people react with fear, confusion, sadness, and anger. Anal cancer can provoke all of these thoughts, along with additional feelings of embarrassment, uneasiness, and a sense of stigma. As a result, the conversation about anal cancer is hidden in a place where the sun doesn’t shine.

Now, it’s time to shed our anxieties (and our pants) to face anal cancer head on.

The National LGBT Cancer Network in partnership with Tusk and Dagger is launching a campaign to raise awareness about anal cancer and create a directory of free/low cost LGBT-friendly anal cancer screening facilities across the country. We invite you to show your support by donating at bit.ly/BehindClosedDrawers or texting “UNDIES” to 41444. We then ask you to help spread the word about uncovering the truth about anal cancer by posting a photo of your underwear on social media and tagging it with#BehindClosedDrawers. We hope to use these photos to add a touch of levity to a subject that is difficult to talk about.

Tackling anal cancer is a natural fit for The National LGBT Cancer Network: while the incidence is relatively rare in the general population (about 1 in 500) it is up to 34x more prevalent in men who have sex with men, and increasingly annually.

  • The majority of anal cancer cases are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • HPV can be transmitted through both protected and unprotected anal intercourse and skin-to-skin contact, including manual stimulation
  • HIV-positive men with a history of anal intercourse are at the greatest risk for developing anal cancer; risk factors also include being a transplant recipient, a weakened immune system, smoking, and age

A growing number of physicians and health activists recommend that all men who have sex with men, especially those who are HIV+, be tested every 1-3 years depending on their immunological well-being and CD4 count. They suggest that HIV negative individuals be screened every 3 years.

This work is important, because most people know little about anal cancer, have never been screened for it, and don’t know that screening tests exist.

You can help us change that!

To donate, text “UNDIES” to 41444 or visit: bit.ly/BehindClosedDrawers

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Interested in helping out “Behind Closed Drawers”? Head here and then spread the word with a photo of your underwear and the hashtag #BehindClosedDrawers.

Cancer · Data · LGBT cancer

Reframing the conversation around cervical cancer and HPV

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Daniella Matthews-Trigg
Program Administrator
LGBT HealthLink

 

 

In October, Michael Bare wrote the post Increasing LGBT HPV vaccines for our blog, and revealed the disturbing statistic that only about 31% of lesbians and bisexual women who were interviewed had completed the 3-shot course of the HPV vaccine, while about 14% had started but not completed the vaccine series. Michael wrote “This is particularly concerning considering lesbians and bisexual women are less likely to get regular PAP tests which can lead to early detection, meaning any cancer diagnosis may come at a later stage in the illness.” In November, the CDC has come out with a series of new infographics illustrating important information about cervical cancer and HPV awareness.

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Lesbians and cervical cancer

Compared to heterosexual women, lesbians may be at greater risk for HPV and cervical cancer due to health and lifestyle factors associated with poor overall health. Women who have sex with women can contract the virus from an infected partner in the same ways heterosexual women can, including through genital to genital contact, touching the genitals of a partner and then one’s own, or sharing sex toys without cleaning them properly first. Many lesbians have also experienced heterosexual intercourse, increasing their risk for HPV. However, lesbians are less likely to regularly visit a reproductive health specialist and are therefore less exposed to information about HPV or make use of the preventative steps developed for women. (Source: National LGBT Cancer Network)

Read more about HPV and cancer in LGBT communities HERE 

Reframing HPV

Much of the work now being done in the health arena around HPV is to reframe the discussion from instead of viewing HPV only as an STI, to instead address the instead address it as a cause of cervical cancer, and  to the lack of education, knowledge, and vaccination from that perspective.

(Read more about preventing cervical cancer on the CDC website HERE)

Additionally, the widespread misinformation about HPV transmission and lack of access to preventative care in LBT communities must be addressed.  Culturally competent clinicians, as well as community outreach campaigns, are two ways to increase testing and awareness in our communities.

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Cancer · LGBT cancer

INCREASING LGBT HPV VACCINE RATES

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Michael G. Bare, MPH
Program Coordinator
National LGBT Cancer Network

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI, and the cause of both lesions (warts) in the pelvic/ genital region, as well as the mouth. HPV has been found to be the cause of a variety of cancers. National Cancer Institute states that “high-risk HPVs cause virtually all cervical cancers. They also cause most anal cancers and some vaginal, vulvar, penile, and oropharyngeal cancers.”

The HPV vaccine was available for human use in 2006, and roll out campaigns aimed at youth have been the primary focus of the US public health service.  In the US, the CDC suggests the HPV vaccine be given to all children 11-12 years old, teenagers who have not yet been vaccinated, for women up to age of 26 and for men up to age 21.

So what is the current uptake of the vaccine in LGBT communities? A study found that only about 31% of lesbians and bisexual women who were interviewed had completed the 3-shot course of the HPV vaccine, while about 14% had started but not completed the vaccine series; this is particularly concerning considering lesbians and bisexual women are less likely to get regular PAP tests which can lead to early detection, meaning any cancer diagnosis may come at a later stage in the illness. Rates for gay and bisexual men, and transgendered people are not available.

New research has shown that the HPV vaccine would be a good idea for adult gay and bisexual men, especially those living with HIV, which can increase the odds of cancer caused by HPV.  For gay and bisexual men, HPV “is estimated to be present in 65% of gay men without HIV and 95% of those who are HIV positive. A simple and inexpensive anal Pap test detects the virus but, unfortunately, few physicians are performing anal screening exams and offering anal pap smears to gay men, resulting in anal cancer rates as high as those of cervical cancer BEFORE the use of routine Pap smears in women.” Activists in the UK are calling on the NHS to offer the vaccine to gay and bisexual men, calling current policies homophobic. Bisexuals, both men and women, have generally worse outcomes of most illnesses, compared to gay men and lesbians, and there is some evidence this extends to cancer. In our communities transgender folks may be uncomfortable, or cannot find a trans affirmative provider, who can perform necessary screenings such as prostate and rectal exams for trans women and chest and pelvic exams for trans men, which can also lead to late diagnosis and more invasive treatments.

While there is limited to no information on HPV vaccination rates for gay and bisexual men, or transgender persons, we recommend everyone seeking out the HPV vaccine from their provider. We also need better community messaging campaigns that bring information on this health issue to our community. The recent meningitis scare in LA and NYC has prompted public health officials to react, but HPV-related cancer will not have the same timing or geographical density for people to conceive an outbreak; these cancers will occur individually, across time: we need a similar high-yield campaign for HPV vaccines for the LGBT community.

To find out more check out information provided by the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation. They do amazing work, and have resources and information that is priceless.