The importance of cancer screenings for the LGBTQ community

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

By Deb Balzer

The LGBTQ community includes people of all races and ethnicities, religions, and social classes. People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or gender-nonconforming may face specific health concerns related to their gender incongruence, sexual orientation and practices. Many experience stigma around their identity and may fear discrimination when seeking health care.

"One of the things we see is that so many members of our LGBTQ community are just scared to come to the doctor in general," says Natalie Erbs, M.D., a Mayo Clinic family medicine physician. "They're worried about being judged for life choices or sexual preferences, and they're not comfortable talking about that."

And that means they're not getting potentially lifesaving cancer screenings.

"They're missing their breast cancer screenings. They're missing their colon cancer screenings. They're missing their cervical cancer screenings," she says.

Dr. Erbs says she is concerned that some patients who are transgender may forgo cancer screenings. "For our transgender patients, that can be a much more sensitive topic because the organs that you have, you may no longer identify with," she says. "And if you don't identify with those organs, you might not want to come in and have them examined."

Dr. Erbs says that however you identify, it’s crucial to take care of your health. "We want you to be your authentic self," she says. "Come in for your preventive screenings. It very well could save your life."

Watch Dr. Erbs discuss the importance of cancer screenings for members of the LGBTQ community in this "Mayo Clinic Minute" video:

For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

A version of this article was originally published on the Mayo Clinic News Network.