Saturday 25 May 2019

We've less sympathy for patients if they develop lung cancer

Smoking is the main cause
Smoking is the main cause

One in five people in Ireland has less sympathy for someone with lung cancer compared to patients with other forms of the disease.

The findings emerged in a study of 25 countries from the Global Lung Cancer Coalition, which examines attitudes toward lung cancer.

The less compassionate attitude toward patients with lung cancer in Ireland is in line with other countries, where the rates were around 21pc.


It found men and younger age groups have a harsher attitude than women and older people.

"No one should ever feel blamed for having cancer," said the Irish Cancer Society's cancer information manager Aoife McNamara.

"Sadly, though, these new statistics would suggest that lung cancer patients are treated differently by the public, compared to people with other types of cancer.

"Any sense of shame can hold someone back from seeking medical help, so it's hugely important that we change our attitudes towards lung cancer."

The findings have led to a call for global action to reduce stigma around lung cancer.

"Living with lung cancer and its effects can be difficult for patients and caregivers, often requiring support to meet a range of physical and emotional needs," said Pamela Gallagher, Professor of Psychology at DCU.

"In Ireland, we don't know enough about what needs patients and their caregivers have. Our research will identify what these needs are and how services from the Irish Cancer Society can support them.

"Already, research has shown higher levels of psychological distress among people with lung cancer compared to other cancer types."

She added that this was unsurprising, as many may face issues of stigma, shame, blame and poor prognosis.


Lung cancer is the fifth most common cancer in Ireland. It is estimated that around 2,500 people in Ireland were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017.

The disease mainly affects older people. It is rare in people younger than 40, and the rates of lung cancer rise sharply with age.

Lung cancer is most commonly diagnosed in people aged between 70 and 74.

Although people who have never smoked can develop lung cancer, smoking is the main cause.

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