Addressing Inequalities in Oncology for LGBTQI+ People

30 May 2024

Inequities in cancer care persist for LGBTQI+ individuals, affecting their access to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship services. This is shown by the recent publication of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, “LGBTIQ at a crossroads: progress and challenges”, which has shown that compared to general population, not only LGBTQI+ people have lower rates of mammography (10% vs 36% of general population) and cervical uptake (27% vs 36% of general population), but they also showed higher rates of cancer diagnoses in the previous year, especially for Intersex people who in the year previous to the survey, had showed a cancer diagnosis rate of 2%, compared to the 0.6% of the general population in the same period.

Other research show that LGBTQI+ people are more affected by cancer risk factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumptions, hepatitis B and others. These increased risks are compounded by significant barriers in healthcare, including discrimination, lack of understanding from healthcare providers, and inadequate support systems. In fact, the oncology workforce is largely unprepared to work adequately with patients from the LGBTQI+ community, and data from Italy show that the majority of medical oncologist feel not trained enough and inadequate when working with trans people. Such obstacles often lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment, resulting in worse health outcomes.

Furthermore, the absence of comprehensive data on cancer prevalence and outcomes in LGBTQI+ populations hinders efforts to develop targeted interventions and policy changes that could mitigate these disparities. Overall, these data highlight how inequalities in oncology is still persistent in Europe today. 

Recognising these challenges, the European Cancer Organisation has established an LGBTQI+ workstream dedicated to addressing the unique needs of this community. The first significant milestone was the inaugural meeting during the European Cancer Summit in November 2023, where key stakeholders gathered to discuss strategies and priorities. This meeting set the stage for a comprehensive and focused approach to tackle the inequalities faced by LGBTQI+ individuals in oncology. The workstream aims to create a framework for inclusive cancer care, emphasising the importance of culturally competent healthcare professionals, inclusive clinical environments, and robust data collection to inform evidence-based practices. 

Building on the momentum from the Summit, the LGBTQI+ workstream held its first official meeting on 2 February 2024, marking a critical step in formalising its initiatives. During this meeting, different organisations and institutions came together to bring forward data on the status of the issue in Europe, highlighting the impending need for actions to be taken. One of the key upcoming activities is the release of a detailed report of this meeting in June 2024, which will outline specific recommendations and strategies to address these inequalities in cancer care. This report aims to raise awareness among policymakers, healthcare providers, and the public, driving forward the agenda for inclusive and equitable cancer care for all. Through advocacy, education, and policy development, the European Cancer Organisation's LGBTQI+ workstream is committed to ensuring that every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, receives the highest standard of cancer care. This pride month and throughout the whole year. 

These activities during Pride Month might interest you! 

  • On 6 June 2024, join the British Oncology Pharmacy Association (BOPA) who is hosting a webinar on clinical considerations for the safe and effective prescribing for trans individuals living with cancer. For more info and to subscribe click here
  • Two projects by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) — DIVERSITY-QOL and RESPECT — are focusing on the Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) cancer population, funded by the Quality of Life Group (QLG). The DIVERSITY-QOL project aims to develop a Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL) assessment strategy for SGM cancer patients and enhance future research participation. The RESPECT project seeks to make EORTC Quality of Life measures more inclusive by using gender-neutral or inclusive language. 
  • Watch this space for the upcoming report from LGBTQI+ workstream - due this month! 

Help recruit SGM cancer patients and health professionals who speak English, Dutch, Italian, or Polish! For more info and for helping with the recruitment of SGM cancer patients and health professionals who speak English, Dutch, Italian, or Polish, contact: Dr. Tom Bootsma, principal investigator at Erasmus University Medical Center, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Addressing Inequalities in Oncology for LGBTQI+ People