BY DREW HOWARD
A program purposed with addressing cancer-related needs in Metro Detroit has received additional funding that will go toward researching cancer disparities within the LGBTQ community.
Launched in 2016 by Dr. Hayley S. Thompson, the Detroit HealthLink for Equity in Cancer Care program brings community members and cancer researchers together to develop research ideas as well as educational and service-based programs. The program is run through several Cancer Action Councils that are composed of cancer survivors, caretakers, loved ones, as well as interested advocates and community partners.
Dr. Thompson was recently awarded $250,000 from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to expand her research into the LGBTQ community. Thompson's grant submission, titled "Partnering with Sexual and Gender Minority Communities to Address Cancer Disparities in Detroit," promises to give a voice to members of the LGBTQ community affected by cancer.
"In the LGBTQ community, there's emerging evidence that there are big disparities," Thompson said. "We want to increase their voice and advocate that this population be included in cancer research."
A 2015 study estimates that there are more than one million LGBTQ individuals living with cancer in the U.S. Thompson's proposal cites several studies revealing disparities among LGBTQ people in regard to lung cancer, breast cancer, anal cancer, and HIV-related cancers.
Detroit HealthLink will establish two new CACs specializing in the LGBTQ community at the Detroit-based non-profit LGBT Detroit. Applications to become a CAC member are now being accepted.
Danny Inman, program coordinator at LGBT Detroit, said CAC members will go through an 18- month program to increase community engagement in research and build research capacity. Council members will learn different elements of community research as well as identifying and prioritizing needs in the LGBTQ community. Members will meet up once a month to go ver over a new lesson module.
"Members who go through these modules will be able to help lead focus groups," Inman said. "With those focus groups, we hope to understand more about how cancer impacts the LGBTQ community and have research projects that come out of it."
Focus groups are a new element of the Detroit HealthLink project. Thompson's proposal promises a series of six focus groups that will address barriers to medical care among LGBTQ people and evaluate the community's general attitude toward cancer care.
Thompson said the focus groups are especially important as there's little research in existence today about sexual and gender minorities and cancer.
"There's still little known about what LGBTQ individuals think about cancer, including their biggest concerns," Thompson said. "There's a focus around health issues and violence and HIV, but there's not a focus on cancer."
According to the National LGBT Cancer Network, LGBT people carry a "disproportionate" cancer burden. The organization states that tobacco and alcohol use in the community are much higher than in the general population, and that gay and bisexual men have anal cancer rates 44 times the national average.
The organization also reports that one out of five transgender patients has been denied service by a health care provider, which could be linked back to a lack of training in medical school.
"For trans folks, their doctors might not know how to approach the situation," Inman said. "This stuff is difficult for doctors to explore and patients to talk about. That gets really thorny with people."
LGBT Detroit executive director Curtis Lipscomb said there is one element of the project that sets it apart from other research initiatives.
"I don't know of anything like this that exists in Detroit," Lipscomb said. "Our big focus is building research capacity in communities. I think the unique thing about this is that community members will be involved in every level."
BY DREW HOWARD