So, last month was Lung Cancer Awareness month, was it? Oh dear, sorry I wasn’t aware of it. My invite must have got lost in the post!
But, better late than never. So, here I go:
Lung Cancer is THE biggest cancer killer of men and women in the UK.
Every 15 minutes someone dies of lung cancer.
Over 45,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer (that’s around 130 per day) and over 35,000 patients die from it each year – more than breast, bowel, bladder and uterine cancer combined.
Yet it receives only 7% of research funding.
This is down to the stigma that surrounds the disease due to associations with smoking. Those with lung cancer experience more judgement than people with other cancers, the first question rather than being “I am sorry . . is there anything I can do . . can I help? is “did you smoke?”
Lung cancer does not confine itself to smokers. The average age for someone to be diagnosed with Lung cancer is around 70. But every year more people are receiving diagnoses younger and younger, and often they have never smoked in their lives. 1 in 7 cases are not linked to smoking. Yet 1 in 4 people surveyed have less sympathy for lung cancer patients than any other cancer.
This is the late AA Gill’s view:
“There is little sympathy for lung cancer. It’s mostly men, mostly old men, mostly working-class old men and mostly smokers. There is a lot more money and public sympathy for the cancers that affect women and the young. Why wouldn’t there be?”
The Roy Castle Foundation write:
“The stigma of smoking is one that continues to haunt lung cancer patients. It is the cancer you caused yourself, you got what you deserve.”
“Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer. We know that, we aren’t trying to disguise that fact. The problem is people with lung cancer are therefore vilified, made to feel like they deserved this awful disease because they choose to smoke – even those who have never smoked a single cigarette in their lives.
Let’s be honest, the villains of this piece are the tobacco manufacturers and the Government’s inaction on smoking is allowing them to escape unharmed. The same cannot be said for its consumers and we are now worried, at a time where there is so much fear surrounding our over-stretched health and social care system, that lung cancer patients will be ostracised further.” Paula Chadwick CEO Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation
I myself have smoked in the past. And no one can make me feel more guilty about that than I did, let me tell you. Even when I was told that the type of lung cancer with which I was diagnosed was not caused by smoking, it was a bitter sweet revelation, and let’s be honest, it can’t have helped. But to fail to fairly fund research into detection, screening, treatments etc due to prejudice seems to be almost inhuman. The nature of life is such that we mortals do do things that are not good for us, we drink, we smoke, we take drugs, we over eat, we don’t excercise etc etc, and that all has health consequences, do we stand by and judge everyone and smear them with prejudice? If a person has skin cancer, are they blamed or shamed because they didn’t use sunscreen?
Every year thousands of people are dying from lung cancer, and maybe we don’t all need to! So, do check yourself out if you have concerns. We need to raise awareness of the disease and inequality surrounding funding for lung cancer, to motivate the government to address the shortcomings, welcome early screening initiatives, and extinguish prejudice.
“An awful lot of people don’t survive lung cancer; an awful lot of people survive other forms of cancer that have been given funding. If more funding was given to lung cancer, more people would survive. It’s up to the MPs – they’re the ones with their hands on the purse-strings that can sort this out and save our lives” Tom, 48, living with lung cancer.
“Nobody deserves to get lung cancer.
They should not be made to feel ashamed. They should not feel like they need to justify their illness or their life choices. They are so much more than their diagnosis. They are people. They matter.
They can hold their #HeadHigh.” ( RCLCF)
The shocking truth is only 38% of people diagnosed with Lung cancer survive a year or more. Largely this is due to the fact that many cases are diagnosed too late. If you suspect that you are showing symptoms don’t bury your head in the sand, get checked out and maybe you will be giving yourself a fighting chance.
The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:
- a cough for three weeks or more
- a change in a cough you’ve had for a long time
- a chest infection that doesn’t get better, or repeated chest infections
- feeling breathless and wheezy for no reason
- coughing up blood
- chest or shoulder pain that doesn’t get better
- a hoarse voice for three weeks or more.
Other possible symptoms are:
- losing weight for no obvious reason
- feeling extremely tired (fatigue)
- the ends of fingers change shape – they may become larger or rounded (clubbing).
If you have any of these symptoms, it‘s important to have them checked by your GP.
Breathe in – we have lung cancer. It’s hard enough without the stigma. Don’t ignore us!