OSU researchers are studying better ways to treat LGBTQ+ cancer survivors

Gabriel Braukman, News Contributor

With the hope of shining a light on often overlooked cancer survivors, researchers from

Oregon State University are conducting the Thriving Together study, an after-cancer project focusing on gender diverse communities. 

Thriving Together is a follow-up research project on the Mindfulness After Cancer pilot study, which was conducted from 2019 to 2020.

The pilot study focused on female cancer survivors, examining the potential use of mindfulness-based interventions: meditations, group discussions and focusing exercises. The study overall was deemed successful enough to warrant a larger study–Thriving Together.

Thriving Together focuses on cancer survivors who are part of transgender and gender diverse communities. While still focusing on the initial topic of mindfulness-based interventions–in regards to sexual health and access to cancer treatment–this adds the intersectional interpretation of gender affirming care. 

“This is a population where there’s just very little research,” said Jessica Gorman, the principal investigator for the study. “I do intervention research with cancer survivors and co-survivors to help them navigate various aspects of life after cancer. I wanted to expand one of my studies to include transgender and gender diverse folks.”

According to an article published in Translational Andrology and Urology, a scientific journal,  cancer screening has decreased cancer mortality by a significant amount, like a 14% reduction in lung cancer deaths. However, all currently published studies on cancer mortalities and guidelines for screening are targeted for cis-gender patients. 

There are many reasons for this, including the variability of stages of transition from patient to patient, alongside widespread discrimination from medical providers.

According to the article, 19% of transgender individuals have been refused care, 28% experienced harassment and 50% were discouraged due to nonexistence of gender nonconforming providers.

Thriving Together was conducted using primarily digital seminars, where the researchers collected testimonies from participants about their experience in the study. As the study is currently still ongoing, results from the survey are being kept private. 

“I’ve been working with Jessica on the sexual and reproductive health equity consortium,” said Jonathan Garcia, the co-investigator on the study. “So when she was talking about having a study on trans and gender nonconforming folks focused on cancer support it really aligned with my work in LGBTQ+ health.”

While the study is still in progress, the intention is to increase the equity of health for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals.

Gorman hopes this study will identify aspects of need in the under researched area, whether that’s a new research question, action step or strategy.

“With the research that we do, we don’t want it to just be research, we want it to be able to go out into the world ultimately, with our goal of improving health equity in the end,” Gorman said.


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