The Fight to HELP END THE Stigma associated with LUNG CANCER for smokers and ex-smokers
WHAT IS STIGMA?
Stigma is defined by the disapproval of, or discrimination against, a person or a group of people based on perceivable social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other members of a society. Individuals and groups are stigmatized when they are judged negatively or experience discrimination because of some personal characteristic or behavior. Stigma affects a number of diseases, especially those that are feared and/or misunderstood, such as addiction, mental illness, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS and, of course, lung cancer. The stigma associated with lung cancer has distorted the reality of this disease as most people honestly believe they cannot get lung cancer if they've never smoked. The truth is that if you have lungs you can get lung cancer.
WHAT IS MY GOAL?
My goal is to help end the stigma associated with lung cancer and other forms of discrimination and prejudice. Most importantly my goal is to convince smokers and ex-smokers diagnosed with lung cancer that they absolutely deserve the same respect, compassion and care as anyone else afflicted with cancer. I find it outrageous that many smokers and ex-smokers diagnosed with lung cancer have been led to believe that they deserve it, that it was self-inflicted, therefore they do not deserve treatments. Everyone with cancer or any other disease deserves and should receive treatments without discrimination. A lung cancer diagnostic is devastating to anyone, but the devastation for some smokers is simply something no one should be subjected to. For society to add isolation, guilt and shame to this disease is, in my opinion, cruelty almost worst than the cancer itself.
This stigma is partly responsible for many people not seeking treatments, even though great progress has been made in the development of new drugs to treat lung cancer. Imagine what great progress could be made if the proper funding for research was available.
Lung cancer is rarely diagnosed in the early stages as there is no screening process in Canada for early detection, which in my case was a simple x-ray performed for another reason. This often results in an advanced stage diagnosis for the patient. People with an increased risk of lung cancer from smoking or other factors, may consider annual lung cancer screening using x-ray and/or low-dose CT scans. Discuss your lung cancer risk with your doctor. It could save your life.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
We could start by trying to understand that smoking is not a bad habit, it is an addiction which, like cancer is a disease. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with lung cancer is a deeply held belief and can be difficult to change for many, but I truly hope I can help some people realize how much pain they are inflicting on others who are simply victims of a wicked addiction.
I believe that if we all took a good look at ourselves we may be less tempted to impose our judgment on others. To judge others is to judge oneself, because you say more about yourself than about others.