LGBTQ+ Cancer Care

Washington, D.C. has the highest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) population in the country, with at least 10% of residents identifying as LGBTQ1. This unique population experiences disproportionately high rates of cancer and poorer cancer outcomes. Higher rates of lung, breast, cervical and liver cancer are reported among LGBTQ individuals compared to the general population.2 Increased access to care and lifestyle risk factors also put LGBTQ individuals at higher risk for ovarian, endometrial, anal, esophageal and colorectal cancers. Gay men are 1.9 times more likely to report being diagnosed with cancer and women in same-sex couples are more likely to have fatal breast cancer compared to heterosexual women.3, 8

Individuals who identify as LGBTQ along with their families, loved ones, and support systems have unique health care needs that have historically been overlooked by most researchers, health care providers and health care systems.4 Research on LGBTQ cancer patients and their needs is critical, since these patients have experiences that are distinctive from heterosexual and cisgender patients.5 There is also a shortage of providers familiar with challenges and experiences specific to LGBTQ communities leading to poor patient-provider communication.6, 7

A top priority for the new GW Cancer Center is health equity for LGBTQ individuals. We aim to become the cancer center of choice for LGBTQ patients, providing high-quality, affirming cancer care. 

Our Approach

We take an ecological approach to addressing complex health care challenges. To address known and unknown barriers to improved LGBTQ cancer outcomes, a multi-level, synergistic approach including patient education and outreach, provider training, systems and environmental improvements, and research is required. We are currently working to expand data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity across clinical and research enterprises.

Learn More About our LGBTQ-Related Work:

Building LGBTQ Community-Driven Research

LBT Breast Cancer Care

GBT Prostate Cancer Care

TEAM: Training for Patients and Providers to Advance Patient-Centered Care


  1. Gates, G. & Newport, F. (2013). LGBT percentage highest in DC, lowest in North Dakota.  
  2. American Cancer Society, California Division. California Cancer Facts and Figures 2010. Updated 2009. Accessed August, 2015.
  3. Boehmer U, Miao X, Ozonoff  A. Cancer survivorship and sexual orientation. Cancer. 2011;117:3796-3804.
  4. Bare, M. G., Margolies, L., & Boehmer, U. (2014). Omission of sexual and gender minority patients. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 32(20), pp. 2182-2183.
  5. Institute of Medicine. (2011). The health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people: Building a foundation for better understanding.
  6. Kamen, C. S., Smith-Stoner, M., Heckler, C. E., Flannery, M., & Margolies, L. (2015). Social support, self-rated health, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identity disclosure to cancer care providers. Oncology Nursing Forum, 42(1), pp. 44-51.
  7. Brown, J. P. and Tracy, J. K. (2015). Lesbians and cancer: An overlooked health disparity. Cancer Causes and Control, 19(10), pp.1009-1020.
  8. Cochran S. D. & Mays V. M. (2012). Risk of breast cancer mortality among women cohabiting with same sex partners: Findings from the national health interview survey, 1997-2003. Journal of Women's Health.21(5), 528-533.