ONS member Ryne Wilson, DNP, RN, OCN®, care coordinator at University of Minnesota Physicians, joined an expert panel to discuss policy solutions for advancing equitable cancer care for the LGBTQ+ community during the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Patient Advocacy Summit in December 2022. The panel focused on issues affecting LGBTQ+ people with cancer, including homophobia, transphobia, systemic racism, and social determinants of health.

Wilson represented oncology nursing’s voice on the panel and gave insight on caregivers’ important role to support people with cancer throughout the continuum of care. Sixty-five percent of LGBTQ+ people with cancer identify someone other than a biologic family member as their primary caregiver, but Wilson pointed out that the Family and Medical Leave Act doesn’t offer protections for caregivers that aren’t part of a patient’s biologic family.

The panel also discussed the importance of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data in cancer research, noting there is little SOGI data to guide cancer care management of LGBTQ+ people.

“As an oncology nurse, it is clear to me that there are structural issues in our healthcare system that bar LGBTQ+ people with cancer from receiving the care they need,” Wilson said. “The key area of concern for me is protections for caregivers of LGBTQ+ people with cancer. Often times LGBTQ+ people have chosen families and, although they may not be biologic, they still deserve the same employee protections as a biologic family member for medical leave to care for their loved ones.”

All patients, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, must have access to equitable, comprehensive, affordable health care without discrimination. Join ONS in advocating for access to care and developing solutions for patients and caregivers.