More than a third of LGBTQ+ cancer patients report discrimination in healthcare


Disclosures: Helium | HemOnc Today was unable to confirm financial information material to Arias at the time of the report.

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Key points:

  • Half of LGBTQ+ patients with and with cancer survivors are concerned about discrimination.
  • Experiences and concerns appear highest among Black and Hispanic patients, as well as those living in the South.

More than a third of LGBTQ+ patients with cancer have experienced discrimination in healthcare because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network survey results.

Of these respondents, 75% believe that such discrimination has impacted their care.

Quote from Gladys Arias

The findings highlighted the concerns and experiences of LGBTQ+ cancer patients when seeking healthcare.

“The American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network [ACS CAN] I believe that everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, detect, treat and survive cancer, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, skin color or where they live” Gladys Arias, lead for health equity policy analysis and legislative support for ACS CAN, Healio said. “We know from research that individuals in LGBTQ+ communities face serious health care challenges and barriers, and are also disproportionately burdened with risk factors, screening and treatment disparities due to systemic factors such as homophobia and discrimination.

“ASC CAN has distributed this survey not only to better understand LGBTQ+ experiences and perspectives [patients with cancer] and survivors, but also to ensure their voices are heard through our advocacy work as part of our organizational efforts to promote health equity,” he added.

The survey, conducted in May, included 200 adults diagnosed with and/or treated for cancer in the past 7 years who reside in the United States or a US territory and identify as LGBTQ+.

The results showed that 37% of respondents faced some form of discrimination in the healthcare setting based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This included feeling like they weren’t being taken seriously or weren’t being shown respect.

Hispanic patients (71%), black patients (44%) and southern residents (42%) appeared more likely to report discrimination based on their LGBTQ+ identity.

Nearly half of respondents (48%) reported that they have not chosen to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity in their healthcare setting due to fears of discrimination affecting their care, and over a quarter of respondents (26%) she indicated that she avoided assistance due to concerns of possible discrimination.

More than a third of patients (34%) reported that they sought care from a specific provider who could be more accepting of their sexual orientation or gender identity and provide them with better care.

Respondents listed several aspects of discrimination that they fear when seeking assistance, including being treated differently/unfairly, being judged, not being taken seriously, being treated as a risk, such as being likely to have HIV or AIDS, or being harassed or assaulted.

Respondents also mentioned aspects of discrimination that impacted their care, such as difficulty finding an understanding or compassionate provider, not receiving appropriate treatment due to bias, problems with a partner’s access to care, and maintaining good health in general.

More than half of respondents (58%) expressed concerns about the political climate affecting their ability to receive healthcare, with 49% reporting concerns that a healthcare professional may feel it is “too risky” to treat them because of the laws passed in their particular state.

In the press release, ACS CAN expressed support for efforts to:

  • maintain the provision of the Affordable Care Act which provides broad protection against discrimination of LGBTQ+ people in health care services;
  • oppose legislation and regulations that include “conscience clauses”;
  • ensure that all eligible people have access to affordable comprehensive health insurance through the expansion of Medicaid; AND
  • support the Marriage Respect Act, which guarantees marriage equality for same-sex couples and their families and protects their access to employer health insurance.

“The American Cancer Society estimates there could be nearly 152,000 new cancer cases and 50,000 cancer deaths among LGBTQ+ people in 2023,” Arias told Healio. “Failure to remove barriers to accessing treatment for an entire group of people would delay cancer diagnosis and treatment and could lead to otherwise avoidable deaths. Ensuring access to care for LGBTQ+ people is not only critical to ending cancer as we know it for all, but can also reduce the burden on the healthcare system.

“By ensuring that everyone has access to treatment, serious diseases such as cancer can be detected and treated earlier, often with better outcomes and lower costs to the system,” he added.


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