This article is dedicated to transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) individuals who experience cancer, in honor of the International Day of Transgender Visibility. Each year, on March 31, we celebrate the lives of TGNC individuals who are our parents, siblings, and friends. TGNC people come from all walks of life, cultures, and age-groups, and have diverse and rich life experiences.
A cancer diagnosis can be particularly challenging, because many healthcare professionals are not trained to care appropriately for the health needs of TGNC people. If you are not a TGNC person, this column may still interest you as an ally and advocate for friends and family members.
Unique Healthcare Needs of TGNC Cancer Survivors
As a cancer survivor, you have unique needs. To take charge of your health, consider the following tips:
- Talk to your doctor about any side effects or symptoms you are experiencing, and what to do about them
- Get checked regularly; annual wellness visits are critical to keep you as healthy as possible
- Once you reach age 50, get screened for colorectal cancer
- For people using estrogen-based hormones for more than 5 years, get an annual mammogram after age 50
- If you have had surgery to remove breast tissue, talk to your doctor about your risk for breast cancer, and whether or when to be screened for it
- If you have a cervix, do not forget your cervical cancer screening after age 21
- Most individuals who are assigned male gender at birth retain their prostate even after sex reassignment. If you have a prostate, be sure to ask your doctor whether a prostatescreening exam is appropriate for you. If you have a neovagina, ask your provider to consider a vaginal ultrasound in lieu of a digital rectal exam.
Health Insurance Claim Denials: Help Is Available
As a cancer survivor, you have enough on your mind without having to deal with insurance rejecting your health claims. Transgender individuals have unique healthcare needs, and not every healthcare provider and billing specialist understands your needs. Insurance companies have automated systems that reject insurance claims based on the gender marker a patient has on file.
For example, if you need a cervical-screening procedure, but your gender marker is male, your insurance company may reject your claim. However, Medicare and private insurance companies have a special billing code to make sure your claims are not automatically rejected—it is called “condition code 45.”
If you are a TGNC person and have experienced a health insurance denial because your gender marker does not match the health service you need, you may need to ask your healthcare providers to ensure they submit condition code 45 with your health service claim.
Locating an Appropriate Provider
Remember to choose healthcare providers who make you feel welcome and that they care about you and your whole health. Trust your instincts. You can tell whether your healthcare provider is right for you. Look for providers who respect your chosen name and pronouns, and who answer your healthcare questions fully.
The TGNC Resources below lists healthcare providers and advocacy organizations for TGNC persons.
MyTransHealth has an online directory of providers that are trans-affirming in large cities, including Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle. The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association has a network of providers that provide affirming care for sexual and gender minorities. The Human Rights Campaign Healthcare Equality Index has a list of healthcare systems ranked based on quality criteria relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex patients. There may also be local health agencies that can help you. Look to your local LGBT center for advice.
TGNC Patient Resources
- National Center for Transgender Equality (Advocacy organization)
- MyTransHealth (Find trans-affirming healthcare providers)
- Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (Find LGBT-affirming healthcare providers)
- Human Rights Campaign
Healthcare Equality Index (Find an LGBT-affirming healthcare system)
- LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) HealthLink