Lung cancer stigma must be stopped

A Thurrock MP has called for lung cancer sufferers to be given a fairer chance to speak about the disease and end the stigma surrounding lung cancer.

Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price has called for an end to the stigma surrounding sufferers of lung cancer following suggestions that sufferers face prejudice as they are assumed to be smokers.

Jackie commented in a debate brought by lung cancer survivor James Brokenshire MP, who was diagnosed despite having never smoked.

Funding

The Health Minister said: “Some 130,000 people die from cancer every year, so there is much to do, which is why the Government have accepted all 96 recommendations in the cancer strategy and backed up this commitment with £600 million of additional funding up to 2021.”

It is one of the most common and serious types of cancer, with 44,500 people diagnosed every year in the UK. Early diagnosis is key but in the early stages there are not necessarily signs or symptoms, which is why diagnosis can often come too late. We need to raise public awareness and people need to be vigilant.

Jackie continued: “The issue of smoking is a very important one. Smoking is the leading cause of avoidable cancers, particularly lung cancer – that is true, but because it is true it has led to a stigma around the disease, and because of its close association to smoking, many people, even if only subconsciously, view it as a self-inflicted disease.

“15% of lung cancer patients are non-smokers, yet an international survey by the Global Lung Cancer Coalition revealed that a quarter of people in the UK had less sympathy for people with that illness than for those with other forms of cancer.”

Lung cancer is not just a smoker’s disease, yet some people believe that stigma is one of the reasons that lung cancer does not receive the level of research funding that other cancers enjoy.

“When it comes to cancer research, we know that as well as Government funding there is lots of voluntary funding, and for as long as that prejudice exists, lung cancer will not attract as much investment.”

“On screening, the United Kingdom national screening committee advises Ministers and the NHS in all four nations about screening policy. At the moment, systematic population screening for lung cancer is not recommended, owing to a lack of evidence that it will save lives.

Screening

“There is a considerable amount of research worldwide on CT screening for high-risk groups, such as smokers and ex-smokers. In the Manchester pilots, NHS England offered free health checks and on-the-spot scans to smokers and ex-smokers in Manchester, of which 46 cases of cancer were discovered.

“There is evidence that we can achieve things by intervening, and that is something that we should look at. NHS England is encouraged by the results.

I think that the best way of getting improved outcomes is to empower patients to look after and manage their own care, and to have mature conversations with medical professionals so that full investigations can be made. Such conversations would lead to earlier screening.”

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