What do YOU think of Lung Cancer?

(April 22, 2014)

What do you think of when someone says lung cancer? Unfortunately, there is a stigma associated with lung cancer that plays a major role in the lung cancer experience for most people facing this disease. Stigma not only affects the patient Treating Lung Cancerexperience, it negatively impacts every facet of the lung cancer problem, from reduced funding for research to poor quality of life and low survival rate.

Many factors contribute to the stigma of lung cancer, but the two main contributing factors are its perception as the invisible cancer and its link with tobacco use and perceived responsibility.

How can the leading cancer killer of both men and women be called the “invisible cancer?” It is a combination of several issues that plague lung cancer: the late onset of symptoms, the low survival rate, the general lack of knowledge amongst the public about the disease and the lack of activities, like widespread screening, that help empower the public to fight lung cancer.

Additionally, there is the strong link between lung cancer and tobacco use. Decades of anti-tobacco efforts have cemented the connection between tobacco use and lung cancer in the public eye. The positive public health results are undeniable, and have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of these efforts has been the stigmatization of smokers and the general public linking lung cancer with personal responsibility.

To address the stigma, it’s imperative to fully understand the scope of the problem, and its effect on those facing the disease. To do this, the Lung Association has recently completed and reviewed research on stigma and lung cancer.  Our issue brief “Addressing the Stigma of Lung Cancer,” reviews that research, along with current literature on lung cancer stigma, and makes recommendations for next steps. Stigma is a multifaceted issue that requires a complex approach but the first step in combatting stigma is knowledge. Lung cancer patients, caregivers and advocates should join together to demystify the disease, share the stories of real lung cancer patients and their caregivers and unify all people facing lung cancer. More research must be done, but together we can take the first steps in combatting stigma and put an end the era of the “invisible cancer.”

Read our “Addressing the Stigma of Lung Cancer” report.

Do you know someone facing lung cancer who needs support? Visit www.MyLungCancerSupport.org