LGBTQ+ and Breast Cancer: Embracing Diversity in Breast Cancer Awareness

Dive deep into the unique experiences of the LGBTQ+ community, shedding light on challenges, disparities, and the pressing need for inclusive healthcare in the world of breast cancer awareness with Dr. Maryam Lustberg, Director of the Center for Breast Cancer at Smilow Cancer Center and Yale Cancer Center and Medical Advisor for Learn Look Locate.

Breast Cancer Awareness: Broadening the Pinktober Horizon

Breast cancer awareness month is often a campaign painted in pink and frills. Although October is an important month for fundraising and awareness, it has often been geared toward the majority of breast cancer survivors who are white and heterosexual with early-stage disease. There have been multiple groups that have felt excluded from Pinktober including members of the LGBQT+ community.

LGBTQ+ and Breast Cancer: Personal Experiences and Challenges

The experience of individuals in the LGBTQ community with breast cancer screening and care varies significantly. Use of transgender-inclusive terminology is vital. 

There is a need to attend to the medical distrust and fear of discrimination as major barriers to preventive health screenings for LGBTQ+ individuals. Many individuals in the LGBQT+ community report that they avoid getting health care out of fear of discrimination. 

Members of the LGBTQ community often delay seeking preventive screening care. The reasons behind delaying or never seeking preventive care include lack of cultural sensitivity from health care providers.

Use of transgender-inclusive terminology is important:

Breast Cancer Risk in the LGBTQ+ Community: Guidelines and Insights

Know Your Risk

Screening recommendations are the same as those for average risk individuals who were born with breast tissue is to start mammography screen at age 40 unless there are other risk factors such as family history, genetic alteration, or prior chest wall radiation.

Members of this community may have increased risk for breast cancer due to never having children, having children later in life, higher rates of alcohol use, and higher rates of obesity.

The risk of breast cancer in the transgender community is not well understood due to limited research.

  • Transgender men who have had chest reconstructive surgery should still receive annual chest wall and axillary exams beginning at age 50.
  • Transgender men who have had a chest reduction may still be recommended to have annual mammograms beginning at age 50.
  • Transgender men who have not had chest reconstructive surgery should follow the same guidelines as cisgender women. If a transgender man has a family history of breast cancer, earlier screening may be recommended.


The impact of testosterone in breast cancer incidence in this population is not clear.


Data are limited about breast cancer risk in this community.

Increased beast density is a known risk factor for both making diagnosis more difficult as well being an independent risk factor for developing breast cancer. A small Dutch study of 50 transgender women found 60 percent had “dense” or “very dense” breasts on mammography.

  • Transgender women over the age of 50 who have been using gender affirming hormone therapy for 5 years or more should get a mammogram annually or biannually.
  • Transgender women who have been using gender affirming hormone therapy less than 5 years are not currently recommended for mammogram screening if they are average risk.
  • If a transgender woman has a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors, mammograms may be recommended before age 50.

Breast/Chest Cancer in the LGBTQ+ Community: What You Need to Know

LGBTQ+ individuals might face a higher risk of developing advanced stages of cancer, including chest/breast cancer, due to various health disparities.

Factors such as socio-economic disparities, challenges in accessing healthcare, and the ability to afford healthcare can influence screening accessibility.

Choosing LGBTQ+ Supportive Healthcare: Your Ally in Cancer Care

Finding a supportive health care team may seem challenging at times but they are out there. It may take a few tries to find a team who listens and cares for your well being and delivers the most compassionate and evidenced based care.
Word of mouth recommendations from peers as well online reviews may also be helpful to help you identify the best location for your care.

There are gaps in health care knowledge of specific healthcare needs of the LGBTQ+ population.

Identifying Breast Cancer Symptoms: Essential Signs to Monitor

Stay vigilant for signs such as:

  • Lump, hard knot, or thickening across the chest
  • Swelling, warmth, or redness
  • Changes in the size of the chest area
  • Dimpling or puckering
  • Itchy, scaly rash
  • Nipple discharge
  • New pain in chest or breast regions

Navigating Hormonal Therapy with Breast Cancer: An LGBTQ+ Perspective

Post breast cancer diagnosis, especially for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, the topic of hormonal therapy is debated.

While risks from hormone therapies are known, especially for those at higher risk or with a breast cancer diagnosis, the most crucial aspect is shared decision-making. This process ensures your values are heard, leading to mutual decisions based on your healthcare risk factors. That’s why finding a supportive healthcare team is invaluable.

Dr. Maryam Lustberg on Breast Cancer Care in LGBTQ+ Community

Join us for a profound conversation with Dr. Maryam Lustberg, a leading figure in breast oncology at Yale Cancer Center. This video delves into the importance of personalized care, the emotional journey of a breast cancer diagnosis, and the advancements in treatment that offer hope. Dr. Lustberg’s expertise illuminates the path to empowered decisions and underscores the necessity of support and understanding in navigating breast cancer. Discover the impactful insights and compassionate guidance that Dr. Lustberg shares with the Learn Look Locate community.

Play Video about Dr. Lustberg Youtube interview cover

“Breast cancer is a difficult diagnosis and understanding what may drive it will empower you. Learn Look Locate is here to bridge that gap and deliver accurate information that is easily understandable.”

Dr. Maryam Lustberg MD MPH

Medical Advisor, Learn Look Locate

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