November is lung cancer awareness month, and Mightycause is doing its part to help fight this deadly yet common form of cancer. Interestingly, a report appeared on NBC’s website just a few hours after the post was published reiterating much of what Ifdy summarized.
NBC was reporting on a release from Fair Warning, an “online, nonprofit publication that seeks to provide robust, public interest journalism on issues of health, safety and corporate conduct.” Fair Warning released a report on November 1, 2012 called “Stigma of ‘Smokers’ Disease’ Stifles Fight Against No. 1 Killer, Lung Cancer” and in doing so raised a lot of important points about the battle lung cancer patients have to fight in addition to their battle with the cancer itself.
As Ifdy reported yesterday, one of the biggest obstacles in the way of lung cancer funding is the idea that lung cancer is self-inflicted. When it was discovered that big tobacco was a major contributing factor to lung cancer, many considered that a huge victory against the major tobacco companies. However, there has been an unforeseen negative side to those findings. Anyone with lung cancer now is grouped with people who have been lifetime smokers, even though, according to Fair Warning, 15% of lung cancer patients have never smoked.
The truly sad news in the Fair Warning report is that according to Dr. David Carbone, a cure, or at least better efforts at lung cancer prevention, are becoming ever more possible. If fighting lung cancer became more of a priority and if we could counter the stigma surrounding the disease, it is possible that we would not have to lose more loved ones to lung cancer in the future.
What Can We Do?
There are two ways that we can tackle this problem. First, we can support organizations like Mightycause that are continuing to raise funds to fight lung cancer despite the obstacles. Mightycause is making this extremely easy this month–all you have to do is “like” their Facebook page. If they get up to 70,000 “likes” Mightycause will donate $10,000 to fight lung cancer.
If you’ve already liked Mightycause’s page and you don’t have a lot of spare money to donate to organizations, there is still a way you can help.
Instead of emphasizing raising funds, we can begin to fight the misconception that lung cancer is just a “smoker’s disease.” One great way to attack a stigma is to counter it with stories that disprove it. An example is Leslie Lehrman, mother of my friend Jennifer Windrum. Leslie and Jennifer are trying to fight all cancers through their SMAC! campaign (Sock Monkeys Against Cancer) but they were inspired by Leslie’s own struggles with lung cancer.
Both women were shocked and dismayed that in addition to having to fight lung cancer, Leslie also felt like she was marginalized because she had a cancer that so many deem easily preventable. For the record, Leslie never smoked. Perhaps you know someone who is suffering from lung cancer who also never smoked. Maybe they worked in a restaurant or bar where they were subjected to second-hand smoke. Maybe it just is a tragic twist of fate. These peoples’ stories need to be highlighted.
Let us not forget, however, that those who have lung cancer because of smoking should not be forgotten. It took decades for tobacco companies to confess that smoking is a contributing factor to lung cancer, and all things told, that’s a fairly recent development. And even for those people who smoked knowing the risk, they should not be neglected based on judgment from others. Suffering is suffering, and if there is something we can do about it, we should.
Lung cancer is one of the most dangerous diseases currently plaguing people in the US. How can we NOT increase the funding to bring it down?