The Lung Foundation Australia is launching a campaign to counter the stigma around lung cancer that acts as a barrier to people with the disease getting treatment and support.
The belief that all lung cancer is due to smoking – and that patients are therefore to blame for their illness – needs to be tackled head on, says the Foundation’s CEO Mark Brooke.
“We’d like to hope that many Australians do not fully realise just how far-reaching the impact of their stigma can be; it results in delayed diagnoses, access to treatment, and a lack of research funding,” he says.
“We also know it makes people living with lung cancer reluctant to seek help and, distressingly, four times more likely to suicide than the general population.”
The Foundation’s Fair Go for Lung Cancer media campaign features the loved ones of Australians with lung cancer asking the public to “stop asking the wrong question about lung cancer”.
It comes in response to a survey conducted in 2017 that found almost 90% of Australians believe smoking is the only lung cancer risk, even though 21% of people with lung cancer are life-long non-smokers. Another LFA report released in October 2018 found that the stigma around lung cancer was linked to high rates of anxiety, depression and social isolation.
Professor Christine Jenkins, a thoracic physician and Chair of Lung Foundation Australia, says that people with lung cancer have poor five-year survival rates when compared to four of the five most commonly diagnosed cancers.
“It is imperative, therefore – in order to improve quality of life – that we as a nation rid ourselves of the stigma we know is having a devastating impact on the funding, research, treatment and support needed for people living with lung cancer and other lung diseases.
“Discrimination and stigma work against achieving good outcomes, because people delay seeking help and feel ashamed of their diagnosis. It also means healthcare services for people with lung cancer, and lung cancer research are not as well funded as they are in other more common, but much less lethal cancers.”
“It’s imperative that we do all we can to ensure misinformation and stigma are no longer barriers to action and greater support,” concludes Professor Jenkins.