OK. There's a Stigma. Now What?
There is not a single person who has been diagnosed with lung cancer or that has a loved one fighting the disease who is not well aware of the stigma that exists. The general public looks down its collective nose at those of us with lung cancer. And the result is that our disease gets little in the way of funding, either private or public.
A few quick facts:
- Lung cancer receives only about $2,399 per death for research from the federal government. By contrast, breast cancer receives about $19,941 per death, despite the fact that lung cancer kills far more women than breast cancer does.1
- Even some physicians tend to believe that lung cancer is a smokers' disease. This means that younger non-smokers or never-smokers are not diagnosed until their disease has progressed to late stage.
- The general public believes that only smokers get lung cancer. And, as such, it is a preventable disease. If smokers chose not to quit, well then, too bad, they get what they deserve.
- The stigma keeps people from seeking treatment, causes them to lie about their diagnosis, makes them feel isolated, leads to a too-early death.
So, what can we do?
I think we can take a lesson from breast cancer. Did you know that the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation was not founded until the early 1990s? This organization is largely credited with changing the face of breast cancer - they mobilized women all across the nation who had been impacted by breast cancer. Suddenly, there was lots of news out there about breast cancer. It was no longer whispered about. It has, in just a relatively few short years, become the popular cause to support. In fact, supporting breast cancer has become such a popular cause that lots of us are on pink overload.
In some ways, breast cancer had it easier than lung cancer will when it comes to mobilizing a mob to make its voice heard. Far more people survive breast cancer than lung cancer. Unfortunately, many with lung cancer are too sick to become advocates for awareness and funding. Additionally, the stigma makes some too embarrassed to say much anyway.
But, thanks to new therapies, more and more of us are living longer. We feel good enough to get out there and let our voices be heard. And, we owe it to those who have already died, to ourselves, and to those who will be diagnosed in the future to be loud and bold. Together, we can change the way society looks at lung cancer just the same as the breast cancer community was able to do.
- Write, write, write. Write to your Congresspeople. Often. The Internet makes it easy. If you follow the link, you will go to a site that allows you to input your address and find who your representatives are and that provides you an easy way to write. A personal letter is far more effective than a form letter. A form letter is better than nothing, though.
- You can also call and visit your Congresspeople. If enough of us cause enough of a stir, maybe, just maybe, they will see the importance of budgeting more money to fighting lung cancer.
- Get involved with lung cancer advocacy groups. Most of them have walks and other activities designed to raise funds and awareness.
- Write articles and blogs about the realities of lung cancer and post them everywhere you can. Ask everyone you know to support lung cancer research. Even $10, combined with lots of other $10 donations, can make a big difference.
- Repost or retweet information about lung cancer so that all of your social media friends start to get the message - anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. And, if they do, their prognosis is terrible, in part because of the extreme lack of funding for research.
What are other ways we can mobilize? It is time. We have to do it. Let's brainstorm and let's get busy! If not us, then who will do it?
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