TAMPA, Fla. — Collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity is an important part of improving the quality of care for cancer patients who happen to be sexual or gender minorities, Moffitt Cancer Center researchers say. However, there is no uniform way in which medical providers seek this information, which can hinder proper care.

Despite social changes and increasing acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) individuals and their families, research in infrastructure is unprepared to address the needs of LGBTQ patients, Moffitt researchers say.

In an editorial published in the Journal of Oncology Practice, senior author Gwendolyn Quinn, Ph.D., scientific director of Moffitt’s Survey Methods Core and senior member of the Health Outcomes and Behavior Program, and co-author Matthew B. Schabath, Ph.D., associate member of Moffitt’s Cancer Epidemiology Program, said creating a system for collecting meaningful and accurate sexual orientation and gender identity data is imperative to addressing potential health disparities among LGBTQ patients.

“Despite a lack of data being routinely collected, one study identified seven cancer sites that may affect LGBTQ populations disproportionally, as well as possible primary prevention, secondary prevention and pre-clinical disease, tertiary prevention and late-stage disease, and clinical implications for each of these cancers,” Schabath writes. “When data are not collected, there is a missed opportunity to discuss prevention and early detection/screening services, thus, those in the Sexual and Gender Minority community may present a more advanced stage of disease than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts.”

The editorial points to the confusion both medical providers and patients experience when it comes to questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. One study found that nearly 80 percent of clinicians working in emergency departments thought asking about sexual orientation or gender identity would offend the patient. That same study found those patients were willing to disclose that information because they believed it was relevant to their medical care.

“Improving communication skills and providing valid tools such as talking points or scripts for asking questions about sexual orientation, preferred pronouns and sexual behaviors for health care providers can facilitate data collection,” Quinn says. “When this data are collected and applied in meaningful and culturally sensitive ways, the quality of cancer care provided to the LGBTQ population can be improved.”

About Moffitt Cancer Center

Moffitt is dedicated to one lifesaving mission: to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. The Tampa-based facility is one of only 49 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is listed as one of the top 10 cancer hospitals in the nation and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best Hospitals” for cancer care since 1999. Moffitt devotes more than 2 million square feet to research and patient care. Moffitt’s expert nursing staff is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center with Magnet® status, its highest distinction. With more than 5,600 team members, Moffitt has an economic impact in the state of $2.1 billion. For more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488), visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube