At Memorial Sloan Kettering, we work hard to create an environment in which people of all genders and sexual orientations feel welcome. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you shouldn’t have to worry whether you or your loved ones will be treated with respect during your care.
Caring for You
We want you to feel comfortable telling us your sexual orientation and gender if you want to. When you first come to MSK, we will ask you about your gender and your sex assigned at birth. Knowing both allows us to give you the best care, such as knowing which cancer screenings to recommend, and ensuring you’re in the correct room if you need to be admitted to the hospital.
If you are an adult, we will also ask you about your sexual orientation. Knowing this information helps us get to know you better and can lead to more meaningful conversations about what matters to you. For example, it may lead to important discussions about how treatments and side effects may affect you or help you understand your rights when you need to have your loved one by your side.
“Clinical care today aims to be precise and individualized. It’s like getting custom made clothes as opposed to picking something off the rack,” says Koshy Alexander, a physician on the Geriatrics Service and co-chair of the LGBTQ Clinical Advisory Committee at MSK. “We need to understand who our patients are and what is important to them.”
Understanding and Eliminating Disparities
Sharing your sexual orientation and gender not only helps build the relationship with your healthcare provider, it also helps us improve our care for other patients and reduce health disparities.
According to the latest research, there are seven cancers that disproportionately affect the LGBTQ population: anal, breast, cervical, colorectal, endometrial, lung, and prostate cancers. By ensuring everyone feels respected, understood, and well cared for, MSK is working to eliminate some of these disparities.
“Sexual orientation and gender identification data are not collected in most national databases, but we know that healthcare disparities exist based on smaller studies,” says Kelly Haviland, a nurse practitioner and Co-Chair of the LGBTQ Clinical Advisory Committee. “The first step to eliminating these disparities is to understand them.”
Human Rights Campaign Recognition
Since 2013, Memorial Sloan Kettering has been recognized as a leader in the LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) compiled by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The HEI is regarded as the national benchmark for hospitals and healthcare institutions and their practices relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer patients and employees.
Organizations in the HEI are evaluated based on five core criteria:
- nondiscrimination and staff training
- patient services and support
- employee benefits and policies
- patient and community engagement
- responsible citizenship
MSK is proud to continue receiving this distinction every year. Learn more about the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index.
For more information about what’s being done at MSK to support LGBTQ employees and staff, email [email protected].
You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. For more information about your rights, read our nondiscrimination statement and visitor policy.
Throughout your continuum of care, oncology social workers are available at every MSK treatment facility to support all LGBTQ patients, their families, and friends. Visit this page for resources for LGBTQ patients and their loved ones.
Support Groups and Community Organizations
Additional resources for LGBTQ+ people and their families can be found in the following local, state, and national organizations:
NYC and NY State
- The Lesbian Cancer Initiative: 212-620-7310
- Cancer Care
- NYS Health Foundation
Resources for Healthcare Providers
MSK faculty are leaders in training and educating healthcare professionals about LGBTQ issues.
Vickers, Andrew J., Tin, Amy L., Singh, Karandeep, Dunn, Rodney L., Mulhall, John (2020). Updating the International Index of Erectile Function: Evaluation of a Large Clinical Data Set. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2021 Dec;18(12):2020-2027.
Austria, Mia D., Lynch, Kathleen, Le, Tiffany, Burrows Walters, Chasity B., Atkinson, Thomas M., Vickers, Andrew J., Carlsson, Sigrid V. (2021). Sexual and Gender Minority Persons’ Perception of the Female Sexual Function Index. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2020 Jan;17(1):126-132
Banerjee, Smita C., Staley, Jessica M., Alexander, Koshy, Parker, Patricia A., Haviland, Kelly S., Moreno, Aimee, Walters, Chasity B. (2021) Sexual and Gender Minority Communication Skills (SGM Comskil) Training for Oncology Clinicians: Development, Implementation, and Preliminary Efficacy. Annals of LGBTQ Public and Population Health 2(1): 35-52.
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Alexander, K., Walters, C. B., & Banerjee, S. C. (2019). Oncology patients’ preferences regarding sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) disclosure and room sharing. Patient Education and Counseling.
Banerjee, S. C., Staley, J. M., Alexander, K., Walters, C. B., & Parker, P. A. (2018). Encouraging patients to disclose their lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) status: oncology health care providers’ perspectives. Translational Behavioral Medicine.
Tollinche, L. E., Walters, C. B., Radix, A., Long, M., Galante, L., Goldstein, Z. G., Kapinos, Y., & Yeoh, C. (2018). The perioperative care of the transgender patient. Anesthesia and Analgesia, 127, 359-365.
Banerjee, S. C., Walters, C. B., Staley, J. M., Alexander, K., & Parker, P. A. (2018). Knowledge, Beliefs, and Communication Behavior of Oncology Health-care Providers (HCPs) regarding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Patient Health care. Journal of Health Communication, 1-11.
Damaskos, P., Amaya, B., Gordon, R., & Walters, C. B. (2018). Intersectionality and the LGBT cancer patient. Seminars in Oncology Nursing, 30-36.