When she was diagnosed with lymphoma about four years ago, Anita Broccolino, now 36, knew she needed a support group. But she feared others might not accept her sexual orientation.

"I purposely didn't use gender-specific pronouns when talking about [my partner and caregiver]," said the Silver Spring resident. "To have to think about that was such a pain."

At the Mautner Project, a D.C.-based nonprofit devoted to health issues affecting lesbians, she didn't have that problem. Broccolino, an associate director at the Human Rights Campaign, attended a Mautner group for lesbians with cancer and their caregivers through most of her seven months of chemotherapy.

Said Mautner's executive director Kathleen DeBold: "We help [lesbians] get through the extra challenges," including the frequent barring of non-family members from patient hospital rooms. Mautner also hosts caregiving, bereavement and smoking cessation groups, and offers programs such as meal-delivery service for lesbians who are seriously ill and training sessions on lesbian-specific care for health care providers. According to the Journal of Women's Health, some lesbians experience discrimination in health care and avoid routine primary care.

To register for a group or learn more, call 202-332-5536 or see www.mautnerproject.org.

-- Samantha Ganey

Joyce Tobias (left) and Karie Watson join others at a Mautner Project training session in July.