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Stefania Vallone

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    MS04 - Joint GLCC/IASLC Session: Exploring Hot Topics for Advocates (ID 783)

    • Event: WCLC 2018
    • Type: Mini Symposium
    • Track: Advocacy
    • Presentations: 1
    • Moderators:
    • Coordinates: 9/24/2018, 10:30 - 12:00, Room 206 BD
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      MS04.03 - Exploring Smoking Stigma, Negativity and Lung Cancer - What Can Be Done? (ID 11417)

      11:00 - 11:15  |  Presenting Author(s): Stefania Vallone

      • Abstract
      • Presentation
      • Slides


      Misinformation or false myths about cancer generate fear and a negative perception of a person affected by this disease. Lung cancer patients experience a higher level of cancer-related stigma than other cancer patients, because the general negative attitude about smoking, recognized as one of the main risk factors, contributes to the stigmatization of people who live with this condition. Although the relation between tobacco use and lung cancer is established, worldwide lung cancer patients are affected by a noteworthy and unjustified stigma and considered responsible of their disease in a different way from other cancer patients. For it, they are often reluctant to disclose the disease, because of fear to be discriminated, and patients' stories show that stigma could be harmful and detrimental to them and their loved ones and may cause limitations in working toward a cure. The lack of public empathy and support adds an emotional burden to an already frustrating situation that can affect quality of life and may contribute to depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, guilt, shame, blame, negatively impacting psychological adjustments and interpersonal communication. Low public support for lung cancer is not restricted to popular perceptions and attitudes, but can also be seen in research funding. Lung cancer remains an underfunded disease and despite the higher mortality, it received less funding compared to other common cancers, such as breast cancer.

      What can be done?

      Stigma impacts all spheres of a person’s life and patients, caregivers, advocates and healthcare professionals have started years ago actively working in this area developing programs and campaigns that can help to change this situation, partly persisting because smoking is still considered more as a bad habit rather than a serious addiction. It’s important to motivate and encourage smokers to quit rather than blaming them, and even when the lung cancer has already been diagnosed, smoking cessation is important for a better quality of life. Providing smoke-free policies and tailored and effective campaigns is essential for improving the people awareness about the issue that smoking contributes to a number of diseases and cancers even if most people associate it exclusively with lung cancer. But, lung cancer is not just a smoker's disease, there are additional factors to consider and the education of patients, the general public and the health care personnel on these topics plays a valuable role. To help dispel stigma it is crucial the dissemination of correct and up-to-date information, the commitment of celebrities, patient families and friends, doctors in campaigning and advocating on their behalf, sharing the stories of lung cancer patient’s in order to increase the visibility of this disease and to generate a movement able to create a support network more sympathetic with these people, because they need and deserve care and support, not an evaluation of the possible causes of the disease. Raising the awareness is one of the main goals of any Lung Cancer Advocate worldwide and in conjunction with Lung Cancer Awareness Month, observed annually in November, many advocacy groups improve their efforts independently or in cooperation for promoting public campaigns about prevention, screening, new treatments and other issues. With the purpose of harmonizing the action, some years ago the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) proposed and lead a unified effort among a consortium of non-profit lung cancer patient organizations and individuals to produce a coordinated public awareness campaign for Lung Cancer Awareness Month (LCAM) in November in order to reach the maximum amount of impact on media coverage, policy makers and public support.

      Reducing stigma is also one of pillar of the global action of GLCC (Global Lung Cancer Coalition) that in 2010, commissioned a research carried out by Ipsos MORI, which surveyed over 16,000 people in 16 countries, and found some evidence that sympathy levels were influenced by rates of smoking in each country. Between 10% and 29% of people admitted to feeling less sympathetic towards lung cancer sufferers because of its association with smoking.

      In 2017, GLCC commissioned a new multi-national study to Populus agency to undertake an online survey of adults across 25 countries for understanding attitudes towards lung cancer among the public. The results confirmed that 21% of people, out of least 1,000 adults per country still agree that they have less sympathy for people with lung cancer than other forms of cancer.

      In conclusion, in lung cancer there is a strong need to overcome many challenges to ensure that all of the patients may have the same hope and equal chances to fight against this disease. Lung cancer patients and caregivers still face a number of significant challenges and more has to be done to increase public awareness, to provide diagnostic tools and access to safe and effective treatments, to support efficient research and to combat the stigma. We’ve come a long way, and we certainly have a long way to go. We should work all together to effectively diminish the stigma that surrounds lung cancer and move forward in a positive way.


      1) Lung cancer stigma, depression, and quality of life among ever and never smokers Janine K. Cataldo, Thierry M. Jahan, and Voranan L. Pongquan

      2) Public attitudes about lung cancer: stigma, support, and predictors of support Jared Weiss,1Briana J Stephenson, Lloyd J Edwards, Maureen Rigney, and Amy Copeland

      3) Lung cancer in never smokers: clinical epidemiology and environmental risk factors Jonathan M. Samet, Erika Avila-Tang, Paolo Boffetta, Lindsay M. Hannan, Susan Olivo-Marston, Michael J. Thun and Charles M. Rudin

      4) Global Perception of Lung Cancer: An Ipsos MORI report for the Global Lung Cancer Coalition

      5) Based on WHO data (2005) on prevalence of tobacco used by country (full data and further information can be found at


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