We live in a time of expanding recognition and social acceptance of the spectrum of human sexuality and gender identities. However, members of the LGBTQ+ community still face significant disparities when it comes to cancer treatment.
According to the American Cancer Society, people in the LGBTQ+ community face a number of barriers to care and a lack of comfort in health care settings. Low rates of health insurance, fear of discrimination and negative experiences with heath care providers can deter some LGBTQ+ patients from seeking medical care and routine screenings.
A recent survey of nearly 200 oncologists’ attitudes and practice behaviors regarding LGBTQ+ health found that while most oncologists said they were willing to treat and be listed as an LGBTQ+-friendly provider, m
any of them weren’t necessarily proficient in inclusive treatment. For example, only 26% of the oncologists surveyed said they ask for a patient’s sexual orientation, and only 46% thought that knowing the sexual orientation of their patient was important.
Treatment disparities and a lack of knowledge within the oncology community inspired investigators from several institutions, including the University of Florida Health Cancer Center, to create a pilot program to train oncologists on how to treat those who are LGBTQ+. The online course is called Curriculum for Oncologists on LGBT populations to Optimize Relevance and Skills, or COLORS.
The organizers hope that by broadening the base of knowledge of the community, it will lead to better health outcomes. They also recognize the sad reality of life that while some people might discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community, cancer does not.