As the nation's leading cause of cancer deaths, lung cancer places a terrible toll on the lives of patients and their loved ones. A cancer diagnosis impacts not only the physical health of an individual, but also their emotional and psychological health as well. For lung cancer patients, this impact is exacerbated by the harmful stigma associated with lung cancer, and the American Lung Association is taking action to address this stigma and reduce the burden of the disease on patients and their caregivers.
"Hearing a diagnosis of cancer is extremely difficult for anyone. And while most cancer patients are met with support from their friends, family and community, this is not the case for all patients," said American Lung Association National Director of Lung Cancer Education Carly Ornstein. "Unfortunately, lung cancer patients are too often met with questions such as ‘did you smoke?' and implied or outright judgment, rather than expressions of sympathy and support."
According to Ornstein, the stigma associated with lung cancer felt by patients has been shown to result in poor patient outcomes, and negatively impacts every facet of the lung cancer experience, from awareness of the disease to resources available to patients.
"The American Lung Association believes that every person facing cancer deserves sympathy and support, regardless of their smoking history," she said. "Through our research, we've developed guidelines for addressing stigma and messaging to help reduce stigma and unite the lung cancer community."
The Lung Association has developed online resources at Lung.org/stigma, and taken additional steps to address the issue of stigma and offer support for patients, including:
The stigma associated with lung cancer also leads to lower awareness of the disease. In fact, according to the American Lung Association's third annual LUNG FORCE Women's Lung Health Barometer, lung cancer is a top-of-mind cancer concern for only 2 percent of women, despite its standing as the #1 cancer killer. This gap is a serious concern, according to the Lung Association, as greater awareness of the disease can lead to more patients screened and lives saved. In fact, if half of the 9 million Americans at high risk for the disease were screened, an estimated 15,000 lives would be saved.
"To save lives, we must bring lung cancer out of the shadows and into the spotlight. To effectively accomplish this and to better support patients, we need to reduce the stigma associated with lung cancer," Ornstein said. "The Lung Association is committed to understanding stigma and taking steps to address it, from supporting patients to challenging knee-jerk responses and the language we use about lung cancer in our conversations, online and in the media."
For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung cancer, patient support and the stigma associated with lung cancer, contact Allison MacMunn at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-801-7628.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.