LGBT Cancer Survivors

rainbow ribbon“Cancer doesn’t discriminate, but the healthcare system often does….”

So starts the conclusion of a new report, “LGBT Patient-Centered Outcomes:
Cancer Survivors Teach Us How to Improve Care for All,” issued by the National LGBT Cancer Network and the Network for LGBT Health Equity.

311 LGBT cancer survivors were surveyed about their health care experiences and recommendations for improving care, with results and accompanying recommendations divided into six categories:

  • Stigma plays a prominent role in LGBT healthcare
  • The local healthcare environment determines one’s experience and is highly variable
  • Disclosure is often related to perceived safety
  • Respecting LGBT patients means respecting their support teams
  • The pervasive expectation of gender conformity can be alienating
  • LGBT survivors need more culturally appropriate support and information

Some survivors’ experiences clearly indicate how anti-LGBT bias affected their care:

“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 ‘sinful lifestyle.'”

“I was never out during the whole process to anyone.  I had no one in the hospital or doctor visit with me for fear of my gayness being discovered and then the doctors ‘accidentally’ not removing all the cancer lesions.”

“An anti-gay surgeon could easily ‘accidentally’ miss one of the many small lesions of the cancer or not take out an infected lymph node.  An anti-gay nurse could take longer to give pain medicine.  Being discovered as a lesbian in a Catholic hospital can be lethal when having cancer.”

“[When the doctor] asked about my wedding band I explained that I was in a long-term relationship with my partner of 14 years.  The look on his face, told me that he was recoiling from that knowledge…After my treatments were over I had gone back to him to continue with my diabetes treatment and was told by the doctor that he could no longer treat me….”

“After being denied care by the initial breast surgeon I consulted, I had to transfer my case to another provider to obtain surgery.  Subsequently, the first medical oncologist I consulted after mastectomy also refused to offer chemotherapy…I privately questioned his oncology fellow who confirmed that he had considerable antipathy toward me because I am transgender, so I had to transfer my case a second time to yet another facility to obtain appropriate treatment.”

The report is available at





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