Lung Cancer Patients Face Stigma, Blame

People with lung cancer feel they get blamed for their illness because the disease is mainly associated with smoking, the BBC reported June 11. The stigma attached to lung cancer was detailed in a study conducted by researchers at Oxford University.

The study of 45 lung-cancer patients found that those who had stopped smoking years ago or had never smoked felt unfairly blamed for their illness. The study said that some anti-smoking campaigns perpetuated the problem, causing damaged relations with family, friends, and doctors.

“Efforts to help people to quit smoking are important, but clinical and educational interventions should be presented with care so as not to add to the stigma experienced by patients with lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases,” the researchers concluded.

Mike Unger, chief executive of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, supported the study’s findings, saying there is a “huge” stigma attached to having lung cancer.

“At a meeting I had with patients a few weeks ago, without exception they were angry at the ‘dirty lungs’ image portrayed in recent [ads] — this just reinforced the stereotype. This campaign might persuade some to stop smoking briefly, but it does nothing to help those with lung cancer, a significant number of whom have never smoked,” he said. “[We] would much rather have such [ads] focusing on lifestyle.”

The study’s findings appear in the British Medical Journal.