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Lung Cancer: The Stigma Symposium: Podcasts/Slides


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http://nationallungcancerpartnership.or ... ymposium09


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Lung cancer is so tightly associated with smoking in the minds of the public, patients with lung cancer can feel stigmatized by their disease regardless of whether or not they have ever smoked. Patients may feel ashamed or unjustly blamed for their illness. Such feelings may increase psychological and emotional distress, compromise patients’ ability to develop social support networks and even result in failure to seek adequate medical care and psychological support services.

To address these issues head-on, the National Lung Cancer Partnership sponsored De-stigmatizing Lung Cancer – Developing A Road Map for the Future: A Think-Tank Presentation at the World Conference on Lung Cancer. The goal of this interactive forum, moderated by Mary Ann Childers (Res Public Group), was to discuss the issues contributing to lung cancer stigma and to identify strategies to dispel this stigma.

Wayne Steward, PhD, (University of California - San Francisco) drew parallels between the causes and consequences of HIV/AIDS stigma and lung cancer stigma. Dr. Steward explained the degree of stigma associated with a disease depends on several variables: whether the patient is seen as personally responsible for the condition; whether effective treatments exist for the condition; and whether the condition or side effects are readily apparent to others. Dr. Steward also explained that widely publicized advances in HIV treatment greatly helped to combat the HIV/AIDS stigma. He predicted that once well-publicized advances in lung cancer treatment occur, the perception that lung cancer is an untreatable, incurable disease will be countered, thus reducing stigma.

Jamie Ostroff, PhD, (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center) reviewed the growing body of scientifi c evidence documenting the stigmatization of lung cancer and the impact it has on patients. Dr. Ostroff theorized the stigmatization of lung cancer is a consequence of effective antismoking campaigns, and one way to lessen stigma is to increase understanding of nicotine addiction – to view smoking not as a character flaw, but a biological or genetic predisposition to nicotine dependence. A better understanding of the pressures that lead people to start smoking could also help reduce stigma surrounding lung cancer.

Drs. Steward and Ostroff both concluded that it is critical to develop support programs that help those affected by lung cancer manage the self-blame and shame that can accompany the disease. All lung cancer patients need to feel that they are not at fault for having the disease. They still have the right to quality health care and should be treated with respect.

In a roundtable discussion, speakers and meeting participants stressed the need to unite lung cancer patients regardless of cause of their illness, to empower them with a voice for advocacy and to combat the perception of lung cancer as a self-inflicted death sentence.

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(LungCancerPartnership.org, Article on Stigma Symposium, Podcasts, Fall 2009 Issue)


The information contained in these articles may or may not be in agreement with my own opinions. They are not being posted with the intention of being medical advice of any kind.

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