Oncology Professionals Benefit from Provider Education on LGBTQ+ Issues
Significant health disparities remain for cancer patients who identify as LGBTQ+, and differences also remain in terms of quality of life during and after the cancer diagnosis as well. Similar to LGBTQ+ individuals without a cancer diagnosis, those with a cancer diagnosis experience greater use of substances including alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs when compared to their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts. LGBTQ+ cancer survivors also experience greater relationship struggles and and levels of distress when compared to heterosexual cancer survivors.
Many health care providers in oncology experienced little to no education on LGBTQ+ health during their medical or nursing education. They may not be aware of the health disparities and impact faced by their LGBTQ+ oncological patients, or how LGBTQ+ identity itself can be a health risk factor.
Some cancers are more prevalent in certain LGBTQ+ populations, such as breast cancer in women who have sex with women, making it that much more important to participate in efforts to increase provider understanding of health disparities and concerns.
Some patients may not disclose their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to their providers when seeking treatment, and if providers do not ask they may miss vital information to improve patient outcomes. If patients do not disclose their risk factors, providers may miss important screening tests and targeted interventions.
Social determinants of health factor into the the health disparities between LGBTQ+ and cigender and/or heterosexual communities as well when it comes to cancer diagnosis and survivorship. LGBTQ+ people have statistically less economic stability; lower levels of education; discrimination in employment, housing, and general civil rights; poor access to health care; and other considerations that may negatively impact the cancer experience.
Provider education will bridge the gap between current knowledge and the necessary level of evidence for oncology professionals to improve the care of their LGBTQ+ patients. This education should include an understanding of vocabulary and definitions; improving the environment for LGBTQ+ patients; improving communication and social support systems; and cancer survivorship issues specific to LGBTQ+ persons.
As oncology nurses and oncologists become more informed and are better able to provide culturally competent care, they can better serve their LGBTQ+ patients and contribute significantly to increased quality of life and improved patient outcomes.
The National LGBT Cancer Network has provided a helpful list of resources:
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, Cancer in Our Lives
National Cancer Institute
CDC LGBT Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health
Simms/Mann-UCLA Integrative Oncology Program
CancerCare’s LGBT Program
Cancer health disparities
Healthy People 2010 Companion Document for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Health.
National Cancer Institute Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities
Physicians for Human Rights, The Right to Equal Treatment
National cancer organizations of
particular interest to LGBT people
Cancer Support Community
The National Coalition for LGBT Health
The Annie Appleseed Project
Young Survival Coalition
Fertile Hope: fertility resources for cancer patients
I’m Too Young for This.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer
Colorectal Cancer Coalition
Breast Cancer Alliance
Lymphoma Research Foundation
National Prostate Cancer Coalition
Health Care Information Resources
Men Against Breast Cancer
Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation
Living with Prostate Cancer
Intercultural Cancer Council
National Coalition for LGBT Health
National LGBT Tobacco Control Network
HIV and cancer
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute report on bisexual health
Transgender people and cancer
American Cancer Society on trans cancer disparities and risks
Trans Care Project, a joint effort of Transcend Transgender Support & Education
Society and Vancouver Coastal Health’s Transgender Health Program.
Gender.org- Gender Education & Advocacy, Inc.
Local lesbian cancer organizations
Long Island Lesbian Cancer Initiative (Long Island, NY)
Lesbian Cancer Initiative (NY, NY)
New York City Lesbian Cancer Support Consortium (NY NY)
Lesbian Cancer Support Services (Denver, CO)
Wingspan—Lesbian Cancer Health Project (Southern AZ)
The Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative (Atlanta GA)
Fenway Community Health (Boston, MA)
The Hambleton Project (Portland, OR)
Lesbian Community Cancer Project (Chicago, IL)
The Center—Lesbian cancer Support Services (Denver, CO)
Women’s Cancer Resource Center