Breaking the Stigma

Breaking the Stigma. Lung cancer doesn't discriminate.

Lung Cancer is the most common cancer suffered around the world. It is also the biggest killer in terms of cancer deaths too, and since the 1950’s, scientists have told us about the connection between smoking and lung cancer. Despite that connection, millions still smoke every day, but that has created another problem, the lung cancer stigma.

If someone tells you they have lung cancer, what is your honest first thought? Its very likely to be about smoking or bringing it onto yourself. That is the lung cancer stigma, and it can cause additional pain and stress for sufferers. Many patients when diagnosed with lung cancer are so ashamed, they often ask doctors to lie to their families about the type of cancer they have. Having the stress of maintaining that lie through treatment is just one more thing that patients would be better off not having, yet the lung cancer stigma makes it a reality.

Some patients even continue the lie after death, with obituaries citing cause of death as another form of cancer, but it should not be this way, and the reality of lung cancer shows this. For instance, around half of patients diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked in their lives, or who smoked and quit many years previously. The idea that everyone who suffers from lung cancer is somehow at fault themselves is provably incorrect. Yet this lung cancer stigma continues.

It’s not just patients either, lung cancer stigma affects research too, with lung cancer receiving a small fraction of government funding that other common cancers receive. With less money comes less researchers, and that means less research and fewer breakthroughs in treatments too. A viscous circle formed by the lung cancer stigma that is largely built on misunderstandings in the first place.

There are measures to combat this, with World Lung Cancer Day first appearing in 2012 and held every year since, the opportunity to raise awareness of how this cancer is not necessarily a result of smoking, with patients needing support as any other would. It is only through awareness that the lung cancer stigma may be confronted, and with it gain the funding needed to help find a way to combat this terrible disease.

Percentage of people who associate lung cancer with: Shame 67%; Stigma 74%; Hopelessness 75%

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Posted in Blog Posts.