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Lung Cancer Treatment Improves, But Stigma Does Not

By Jennifer C. King, PhD

While lung cancer treatments have drastically expanded in recent years, improving outcomes, patients and physicians still report that there is a stigma surrounding the disease, according to research conducted by the the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer.

Jennifer C. King, PhD, senior director of Science and Research at the foundation explained that in 2008, patients and physicians were asked about lung cancer, as well as cancer in general. They followed up a decade later, and found that attitudes toward the disease actually worsened, with 70% of patients and 68% of oncologists agreeing with the statement, "There is a stigma surrounding lung cancer."


Both the patients and the oncologists really reported that care has improved. We saw that there was a high level of understanding and that there are more treatment options for patients with lung cancer today than there were a decade ago. Oncologists rated the treatment options higher, and since we looked at different types of cancer within the survey, we could see that, for example, in breast cancer, there was not a significant change within the decade. But in lung cancer, there was a highly significant change in how many oncologists felt that there were adequate treatment options for their patients. So this survey really reflected the changing standard of care in lung cancer, and how we have seen an explosion of new treatment options for patients with lung cancer over the past decade.

Unfortunately, we saw the improvement in care, but where we were hoping that maybe we had moved the needle a little bit on lung cancer stigma and attitudes surrounding lung cancer, we actually found the opposite. Instead of having improved attitudes over that last decade when care was improving, we found even more stigma. When both patients and oncologists were asked whether they agreed with the statement "There's a stigma surrounding lung cancer," 70% of patients and 68% of oncologists agreed with that statement.
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