October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 18, 2005

Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications

Task Force urges lesbians and bisexual women to have mammogram screenings this month; applauds work of the Mautner Project

'Our community owes a debt of gratitude to the Mautner Project for its dedicated efforts to focus the national spotlight on lesbian health care for so many years.' — Rea Carey, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 — October has been National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for more than 20 years, educating women about early breast cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment to fight the disease. Lesbians and bisexual women, for a variety of reasons — including barriers to treatment — are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The Task Force urges all women to stay healthy and join the fight against breast cancer by having mammogram screenings this month.

National Mammography Day is Oct. 21, 2005. Early detection through annual mammograms is a critical tool in combating cancer. Every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, and it is the leading cancer among white and African-American women.

Lesbians and bisexual women face unique health challenges, one of them being access to medical treatment. Women often face a barrier to just visiting the doctor for a check-up because they may not be out in their community and may not feel comfortable answering questions from their health provider about their sexual orientation.

"The biggest challenge in working on lesbian health issues involves understanding that there are many different types of lesbians and just one message about health behavior won't work. In the same that health promotion messages about safe sex and HIV/AIDS have come to be tailored to various subgroups, the same is true for, let's say, breast health screening," says Kathleen Maloy, chair of the board at the Mautner Project and professor of health policy at George Washington University School of Public Health. "Age, race and class are all part of the issue. Furthermore, lesbians, like women in general, have a higher rate of being uninsured because women tend to be in lower paying jobs and so access to treatment and screening is even more difficult."

Founded in 1990, the Mautner Project, based in Washington, D.C., is the national lesbian health organization working to improve the health and well being of all women who partner with women, with a particular focus on breast cancer.

"Our community owes a debt of gratitude to the Mautner Project for its dedicated efforts to focus the national spotlight on lesbian health care for so many years," says Task Force Deputy Executive Director Rea Carey.

The Mautner Project provides unique services for lesbians and their families, including a direct client services program, education and training about lesbian health issues, research and advocacy.

Lesbians and bisexual women suffer from unique difficulties in living with and treatment of breast cancer. Many may be closeted at work, or primary caregivers may not be given time off of work. In this way, the direct services Mautner provides may be some of the most important.

Says Maloy: "At the Mautner Project, we're learning about how to work on lesbian health issues from women themselves, from our groundbreaking research, and from providing training all over the country to healthcare providers. We're removing the barriers to healthcare for lesbians and promoting lesbian health based on our vision of a health system with equal access to care for all and social justice."

All women, regardless of sexual orientation or age, should stay healthy and fight breast cancer by having a mammogram screening this month.

For more information about the Mautner Project, visit


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.