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Representation of Sexual and Gender Minority People in Patient Nondiscrimination Policies of Cancer Centers in the United States

Iman K. Berrahou, Ava Snow, Megan Swanson, and Juno Obedin-Maliver

Background: Sexual and gender minority (SGM) people are an underserved population who face high rates of discrimination in healthcare, including receipt of cancer treatment. Several national organizations have identified the importance of patient nondiscrimination policies that explicitly recognize SGM people in creating safe healthcare environments. Methods: We performed a web-based analysis of NCI-designated Cancer Centers to evaluate the landscape of patient nondiscrimination policies in major cancer centers with regard to representation of SGM people. Results: We found that 82% of cancer centers had a patient nondiscrimination policy on their website. The most commonly mentioned SGM-related term was “sex” (n=48; 89%), followed by “sexual orientation” (n=37; 69%) and “gender identity” (n=36; 67%). None of the policies included “sex assigned at birth” or “LGBTQ/SGM identity.” Of the policies reviewed, 65% included protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity. Cancer centers with academic affiliations were significantly more likely to have policies that included both of these protections compared with nonacademic institutions (100% vs 79%; P=.005). Conclusions: Our study shows that patient nondiscrimination policies across NCI-designated Cancer Centers are not always accessible to patients and their families online and do not consistently represent SGM people in their content. Because the SGM population is both at higher risk for cancer and for discrimination in the healthcare setting, it is crucial to create inclusive, safe, and equitable cancer care environments for this group. Administrators and clinicians should view the patient nondiscrimination policy as an opportunity to offer expansive protections to SGM people that extend beyond those offered in federal and state laws. Additionally, the patient nondiscrimination policy should be visible and accessible to patients seeking cancer care as a signal of safety and inclusion.