Prejudice against lung cancer

Ever year, 7.5 million people die of cancer, 13% of world deaths.  Of these, 1.5 million are from trachea, bronchus and lung cancer.  Lung cancer is very difficult to treat with bleak prospects for most patients: over 85% of patients diagnosed with lung cancer die as a result of the disease.  Is this high death rate due to a lack of funding to search for treatments or is lung cancer simply much harder to cure than other cancers.

Lung cancer receives much lower funding than many other types of cancer.  For example, in the US, research funding per breast cancer death is over $26,000, whereas for lung cancer deaths it is only $1,442.  Why does lung cancer research receive so little funding compared to breast cancer, when there appears to so much scope for saving lung cancer sufferers?

It could be because of prejudice against lung cancer – many patients are stigmatised because lung cancer is thought of as a disease of smokers.  In the UK lung cancer received just 5% of funding targeted as specific cancers whereas breast cancer got 19%.  A recent survey showed that about 25% of people in the US, UK, Canada and Australia felt less sympathy towards those with lung cancer because of its association with smoking.  Perhaps this is leading to fewer people and organisations donating money towards lung cancer research.

Futhermore, as well as changing the attitudes of the public to encourage them to donate to lung cancer charities, the medical community needs to chage its attitudes to tthink more positively about lung cancer patients rather than giving up on them.  Many patients face an uphill battle to get appropriate treatments and to find willing physicians. Lots of these patients suffer from prejudice against lung cancer, so aren’t able to access treatments, such as a specific molecular diagnoses, which could prolong their lives.

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