#LCSM Chat 2020-02-06: Dealing with #lungcancer stigma and nihilism


All too often, lung cancer patients encounter stigma towards their disease and nihilism towards their chances of beating it. Although the causal connection between tobacco smoking and lung cancer was heavily emphasized in well intended public campaigns designed to curb cigarette use, unintended consequences arose.

Perhaps more than any other cancer, lung cancer is automatically associated with a bad personal choice – smoking. Many people believe patients could have avoided their lung cancer had they made better decisions. Such perceptions may stifle discussions about lung cancer, cause patients to refuse screening or to delay seeking medical evaluation, and often lead to self-blame and guilt among patients.

Therapeutic nihilism goes hand in hand with this stigma. For too long, survivors of lung cancer were reluctant to share their stories, perhaps in part as a result of their own burden of guilt. That, along with a survival percentage far below those of other cancers, led general physicians and the public to believe that all lung cancer patients would die soon after diagnosis. The only option was to tell the patient to “get your affairs in order.”

Fortunately, we are making progress. Advances in screening, surgical treatment, radiation therapy, molecular profiling, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy have drastically improved outcomes and quality of life for many lung cancer patients. At the same time, a growing community of lung cancer patients and advocates have raised their voices and demanded attention. They are sending a clear message: anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. The lung community has called for focused efforts promoting research, for programs highlighting survivorship, and for equal access to evidence-based care.

Despite progress, we still have much work to do. With that in mind, Dr. Brendon Stiles (@BrendonStilesMD) will lead our discussion on Thursday, February 6, at 8 pm Eastern Time, using the following questions:

  • T1 How does stigma affect lung cancer patients and research?
  • T2 Are doctors and patients still nihilistic about a new diagnosis of lung cancer?
  • T3 Are there certain groups of patients who doctors particularly stigmatize or take a nihilistic view towards?
  • T4 How can we better study the effects of stigma and nihilism on cancer patients?
  • T5 What can we as a group do to best address stigma and nihilism?

Please join us, and bring your experiences and wisdom!  Remember to include #LCSM in ALL your tweets so the other chat participants can see them. You can read a primer on participating in the chat here.

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