Cancer Centers Should Adopt the Reality That Cancer Has No Gender, Expert Says


Dr. Don S. Dizon discusses how cancer centers can be more inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community, from the naming of the institutions to the types of magazines found in the waiting rooms.

Dr. Don S. Dizon is a professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and an oncologist who specializes in women’s cancers at the Lifespan Cancer Institute at Rhode Island Hospital. However, he acknowledges that the term “women’s cancers” can be exclusionary to members of the LGBTQ+ community.

In a recent interview, Dizon discussed how cancer centers can be more inclusive to members of all genders and sexualities, from dropping names like “centers for women’s cancers” to changing the imagery and magazines around the institution.


I think several things can be done to the physical infrastructure, and certainly to mission statements. Those are easier to do than others. But having a mission statement that espouses a quality that really reaffirms sexual orientation as a human right, that affirms gender as a human right that is to be respected, and not maligned.

And then looking at your waiting areas, seeing that there are bathrooms, maybe, for men, for women, and one that’s not labeled. Having diversity of your magazines in your waiting area, you know, it shouldn't all be, you know, “Cosmopolitan” and “Time Magazine.” Some of them should be gender neutral. So, it's great, if you have something like, “Outside Magazine,” that doesn't speak to men or women, right? “Cosmopolitan” necessarily would.

You just think of the physical infrastructure, the feng shui of your place, and you want to see that anyone that walks into this area is welcome. And this is the biggest issue regarding women's cancer centers, right? The “Center for Women's Oncology,” or the “Center for Breast Cancer Care,” all adorned in pink, all adorned with female imagery, all adorned with female breasts, is not necessarily going to be that welcoming to the trans male who has breast cancer or the lesbian who has breast cancer and all she sees are heterosexual partners. But it's also not going to be welcoming to men with breast cancer, either.

I think, if all of oncology adopted this truth that cancer doesn't have a gender, it would be a great place to start because it is intuitive. You know, when we write our protocols, yes, about clinical trials, do you really need to specify the eligibility (as) men with prostate cancer? You know, that association will exclude people who might have been assigned male at birth, but believe themselves to be, and are indeed, women.

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