New Brunswick, N.J., June 6, 2021 – Everyone relies on health care services at some point in their lives, but not everybody has the same access to medical services and treatment. As a result, certain populations suffer poorer health outcomes, such as the LGBTQ+ community. June marks Pride Month, when we celebrate the diversity, strength, and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community. We must also call to attention the healthcare challenges and barriers faced by this community.
A person with cancer who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or non-binary may have unique concerns about communicating with their cancer care team, navigating the healthcare system and coping with their diagnosis. According to the American Cancer Society, LGTBQ+ individuals may have worse health outcomes due to fear of discrimination, past negative healthcare experiences, and lack of adequate insurance coverage. According to the National LGBT Cancer Network, because the LGBTQ+ population faces unique barriers when accessing any health care system, both preventative and essential care are affected, which can result in disparities in cancer risk and treatment.
Working Towards Creating an Inclusive Environment
Despite the barriers and disparities that many LGBTQ+ individuals with cancer face, education for medical professionals on the topic of healthcare and cancer is growing to support this community. For example, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey has partnered with the Proudly Me! Transgender Edu-port, an education support program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, to offer a series of educational sessions for staff to learn the basics on how to respectfully address and care for transgender patients. Because of these efforts being made, medical professionals are becoming better allies to the LGBTQ+ community and learning to identify and address their unique cancer care needs, which will lead to improvements in cancer care from screening to diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.
How Can We Help?
Being willing to learn more about individuals who are LGBTQ+, their experiences, and the issues they often face as well as using terminology that is currently embraced by the LGBTQ+ community is an important way to begin to help and show respect. Additionally, members of the community can come together to create spaces that are inclusive and healing where every person feels safe to be themselves.
If you or a loved one are part of the LGBTQ+ community and have been diagnosed with cancer or are a cancer survivor, it is important to remember that you are not alone in your experience.
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and RWJBarnabas Health facilities are inclusive environments with staff dedicated to serving the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. Learn more
Joan Hogan, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, is manager of Social Work Services at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. She is currently a doctorate of clinical social work (DSW) candidate at Rutgers School of Social Work, where her research focus is oncology and the transgender patient experience.