Don Dizon, MD on the Experiences of Gay and Transgender Patients With Cancer

Don Dizon, MD, spotlights the daunting experiences lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients with cancer face, tracing that experience from diagnosis throughout treatment and continuing into symptom management.

In an interview with CancerNetwork®, Don Dizon, MD, FACP, FASCO, director of women’s cancers at the Lifespan Cancer Institute, director of medical oncology at Rhode Island Hospital, and professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, emphasizes the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients with cancer and negative interactions that can impact their cancer care experience.


What people may not realize, particularly my colleagues, is that any person who identifies as lesbian or gay or bisexual or trans[gender], every single time they meet a new doctor, there’s that moment of anxiety of, ‘Do I need to come out to this person? Are they going to ask me? What are going to be the repercussions if I do?’ Now imagine that someone is being treated for cancer, which is a multidisciplinary treated disease these days. You’re not only meeting an oncologist; you’re meeting nursing staff, infusion staff, navigators, [and] medical assistants, in addition to a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, and even a surgeon. All those time points, do you need to come out? It’s really quite daunting. All you need is 1 event where that [patient] was treated with disrespect and it can color the whole experience for that person. And not in good ways.