Joan H. Schiller, MD; Alice Goodman, MA


July 18, 2013

In This Article

Destigmatizing Lung Cancer

Medscape: What is the next step?

Dr. Schiller: Once you measure something, you have a better chance of developing interventions for approaching the problem. Our next step is figuring out approaches, but it will be easier to engage people in that effort now that we have such striking numbers.

We were surprised that healthcare providers had negative biases consistent with other groups. We are now specifically recruiting physicians to participate in the research to better understand whether there is variation among different types of physicians -- general practitioners, pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, and oncologists.

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Women with lung cancer have told people they have breast cancer, because they are ashamed

Medscape: Do you see changing trends in the types of patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer?

Dr. Schiller: Yes. For several years, we have seen a growing population of young women who are never-smokers being diagnosed with lung cancer. These patients tend to have EGFR mutations and ALK rearrangements.

This fits in with the stigma story, because these young women are tainted by the stigma and guilt associated with lung cancer in that they have no strong advocacy group fighting on their behalf. If a young woman with breast cancer is sitting next to a young woman with lung cancer in an oncology clinic, the breast cancer patient has a wealth of resources, whereas the lung cancer patient does not.

Medscape: The breast cancer patient advocacy movement has done a good job of educating the public and destigmatizing a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Dr. Schiller: Yes, women with lung cancer have told people they have breast cancer, because they are ashamed of the lung cancer diagnosis. Part of the reason for the success of the breast cancer advocacy movement is that there are so many survivors of breast cancer, whereas few people survive lung cancer.


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