Jyoti Patel, MD, is a medical oncologist and Cancer.Net Associate Editor for lung cancer. Due to the positive response Dr. Patel’s guest post has received on the Cancer.Net Blog, ASCO Connection wanted to make ASCO members aware of this content. Cancer.Net is the American Society of Clinical Oncology's (ASCO) patient information website.
For years I have cared for patients with lung cancer who suffered from the stigma surrounding the disease. I have watched patients courageously fight, endure treatment toxicity, and come to terms with the fact that their disease would ultimately be fatal all on their own, primarily because of the shame that they felt. They, and many others, felt the disease was somehow self-inflicted. They felt guilty for putting their loved ones through such a difficult journey, one they felt they had brought upon themselves. It’s hard for me to believe that anyone could feel that such a deadly disease was somehow deserved.
What many people don't realize is that over half of all people who are newly diagnosed with lung cancer either have never smoked or are former smokers, many of whom quit decades ago. Tragically, the stigma associated with lung cancer has translated into a massive inequality in research funding. Lung cancer receives a fraction of federal funding compared to other common cancers, such as breast cancer. The difference is staggering and has a “spill over” effect—fewer dollars attracts fewer researchers which leads to fewer breakthroughs.