Destigmatizing Lung Cancer

Many people who are diagnosed with lung cancer must also face the negative public perception and stigma of being a lung cancer patient.

Many lung cancer patients, whether they smoke, have quit or have never smoked, feel stigmatized because the disease is so strongly associated with smoking. Stigma often results in negative reactions and blame from others and a perception that those patients ‘brought it upon themselves.’

As a result of this stigma, patients may experience:

  • Complex self-blame and intensified guilt and shame.
  • Fear of disclosing one’s diagnosis of lung cancer.
  • Avoidance of social situations, leading to increased feelings of isolation.
  • Increased stress and difficulty coping.
  • Threats to economic opportunities and financial problems.

While the connection between smoking and lung cancer cannot be denied, anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. There are other common environmental factors that can lead to a lung cancer diagnosis, including for non-smokers. Exposure to radon, second-hand smoke, air pollution and other factors can all lead to lung cancer.

Whether patients smoked or not, they tend to be blamed for having caused their disease—adding an even greater emotional burden to an already overwhelming situation. When this stigma persists, it hurts patients and their families, who may not get the treatment and supports they need to for their best chance at survival. For more information about stigma and lung cancer, click here.
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