Breast cancer survivors
Her2+ breast cancer
Men with breast cancer
People with a genetic mutation linked to cancer risk
Triple negative breast cancer
Women under 45
Women over 45
Little is known about the cancer care experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) patients. This study looks at recommendations from the LGBTQ community for improving their cancer care. (6/20/19)
|At a glance||Questions for your doctor|
|Clinical trials||Resources and reference|
the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) cancer patients.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) cancer patients have unique experiences and needs compared to their peers who are heterosexual and cisgendered (those whose sex assigned at birth matches their gender identity). For example, sexual minority women are more likely to delay health care, are less likely to have a usual place of care, and are more likely to exhibit higher risk behaviors associated with increased breast cancer risk such as smoking, obesity, heavy drinking. However, the experiences of LGBTQ cancer patients in the context of cancer care are not well understood. This study looked at suggestions from LGBTQ cancer patients for improving their cancer care.
Researchers looked at the words and stories of 273 LGBTQ cancer patients for underlying themes. Five themes emerged.
LGBTQ cancer patients reported that they:
A white cisgender lesbian wrote:
"I had been sick for a year prior to diagnosis but my primary care doctor kept trying to get me to take anxiety medication and treating my shortness of breath as panic attacks instead of a result of the large tumor in my chest which would later be found. I feel a lot of that had to do with pre-conceptions about gay people."
A Latina cisgender lesbian wrote:
"My partner did not come to the hospital because the only good hospital around was a Catholic hospital and I didn’t want my treatment compromised by them finding out about my ‘sinfu lifelstyle.’ An anti-gay surgeon could easily ‘accidentally’ miss one of the many small lesions of the cancer. Being discovered as a lesbian in a Catholic hospital can be lethal when having cancer."
One woman wrote:
"As an alone, aging senior, I am also dealing with the fear of rejection by being ‘out’ even though I was very ‘out’ when younger and in a partnership."
A white cisgender lesbian wrote:
"I needed to talk to other gay women with cancer. I tried a support group for women with breast cancer. All the women were straight and THEY gave me a hard time for not doing reconstruction."
A cisgender gay man wrote:
"If I had not felt that both me and my partner were fully supported by the medical team I would have immediately gone elsewhere."
Based on their findings, the authors of this study issued guidelines for cancer care providers (see Conclusions below).
The Institute of Medicine and The Joint Commission have recommended asking sexual orientation and gender identity questions in clinical settings and including such data in a patient’s Electronic Health Record. More information can be found here.
If you are a member of the LGBTQ community, you should know that most health care providers have limited knowledge of the unique LGBTQ health and cancer needs. However, as a recent study reported, many health care providers have a high interest in learning more about the unique healthcare needs of this community.
This study was limited by the lack of diversity among the patients: most respondents were white, cisgender gays and lesbians. More research is needed on the experiences in the cancer care setting of bisexual and transgender people as well as LGBTQ people of color. Finally, because participants were recruited from LGBTQ-specific sources, the study sample likely excluded people who are not open about their sexual and/or gender identities.
Based on the findings of this study, guidelines for cancer care providers were suggested. These include providing access to LGBTQ-specific training on cultural competency, responsiveness and humility; asking about and using patients’ names and pronouns; including support people of the patient’s choosing; and providing support resources that are relevant to the sexual orientation and identities of patients, among others.
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Current recommendation for cancer screening in transgender people
In June 2016, the University of California Center for Excellence in Transgender Health published the second edition of Guidelines for the Primary and Gender-Affirming Care of Transgender and Gender Nonbinary People, which include the following guidelines for cancer screening and treatment:
Both the New York Times article and the guidelines emphasize the need for health care providers to assure that the medical system is treating transgender patients with appropriate care.
The following are clinical trial for cancer studies that are specifically recruiting LGBTQ patients:
The Clinical trial (NCT02459769) Exercise Intervention for LGBT Cancer Survivors is recruiting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) cancer survivors to evaluate an exercise intervention and its impact on psychological stress for cancer patients and their caregivers.