Providing access to an otherwise limited screening impacting the LGBTQ+ community

Providing access to an otherwise limited screening impacting the LGBTQ+ community

It’s a startling number. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 9,440 new cases of anal cancer in the United States this year.  

While it’s possible for anyone to develop anal cancer, the risk is significantly higher for people who are HIV-positive and have other risk factors. Detecting, monitoring and treating precursor anal cancer lesions can significantly reduce the risk of progression to anal cancer among people living with HIV, according to a study led by researchers at University of California San Francisco. 

Fueled with this knowledge, The Digestive Health Team at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center provides access to an otherwise limited screening service that helps address a health disparity that impacts the LGBTQ+ community. This screening service is the Anal Cancer Prevention Program (ACPP), developed in partnership with colon and rectal surgeon Dr. Joaquin Estrada 

Through this program, patients undergoing outpatient colonoscopies complete a self-screening questionnaire that starts a conversation between the patient and their physician about their risk for anal cancer. If at high risk, a quick and easy screening swab is completed prior to their colonoscopy which can detect anal cancer precursor lesions.  

Bailey Hanselman and Kristin Duewerth are the nurse navigators who coordinate this program. “This program puts us at the forefront of early detection of anal cancer,” Hanselman says. “This is also an opportunity for us to better serve our patients, especially those who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.” 

Duewerth says this screening may be right for you if two or more of the following are true: 

  • Have a history of HPV-related cancers in the cervix or vagina
  • Engage in anal intercourse
  • Smoke
  • Are HIV-positive
  • Are 50 or older  

Since 2019, The Digestive Health Team has provided education and built awareness for tens of thousands of patients who’ve had outpatient colonoscopies. They have performed over 345 screenings. 

“We’re so grateful to be able to provide this important service to our community,” Hanselman says. “We want any patient, regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation to be able to come to us and feel they’re being taken care of and seen as a whole person.” 

Looking for an LGBTQ+ friendly health care provider? Find one in Illinois or Wisconsin.   

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About the Author

Amy Werdin
Amy Werdin

Amy Werdin, health enews contributor, is a provider public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. She has been with the organization for 19 years, starting out in marketing for Advanced Healthcare, then Aurora Health Care and now in her current role. She enjoys reading, movies and watching her two daughters dance and her son swim.