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Issue IntroductionsLung Cancer

Lung Cancer Stigma Can Cause Death

In her introduction to the November 2020 issue that is focused on lung cancer, Lillie D. Shockney discusses the articles and dispels the common assumption that only smokers get lung cancer.
November 2020 – Lung Cancer
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Co-Founder, Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators® (AONN+)
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship®
University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer
Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Co-Developer, Work Stride: Managing Cancer at Work
Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions
Breast cancer survivor

Welcome, everyone, to this special issue of CONQUER: the patient voice, which is focused on lung cancer. People make many assumptions about lung cancer. The biggest assumption is that the patient had to have been a smoker to get lung cancer. I must emphasize this is clearly wrong! We now know that there are many reasons to have lung cancer, and many of them have nothing to do with smoking.

In this issue you will read stories from 2 individuals who had never smoked and yet they were each diagnosed with this form of cancer. The lesson to learn here is that anyone can get lung cancer, as these patients say. One of the patient stories is about an individual who is now living with lung cancer. You will come to learn that it is always important to “be in the moment,” and not postpone joy.

Another article is from a woman who was a caregiver for her mom who had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. She shares her experiences as a caregiver and talks about how she “found her purpose” after taking care of her mom during her treatment. Her mother lived through this experience and established a foundation for patients with lung cancer, and through this experience, the daughter has become passionate about raising awareness about lung cancer. She works with another foundation, helping people to get screened for lung cancer, reduce their risk, and get rid of the stigma associated with the diagnosis of lung cancer.

I have always said that lung cancer causes death by stigma, because as a society we are not very empathetic to someone diagnosed with lung cancer. People often consider it the patient’s fault, assuming that the patient must be a smoker or had smoked at some point.

In addition, lung nodule screening is underutilized for the same reason. Patients fear that they will be lectured to if they find out that they have lung cancer and will be treated in a less-than-sensitive way.

This issue also includes an article on nutrition for patients with lung cancer, to guide patients with this disease in the direction of eating well. Lung cancer can be linked to difficulties in eating and maintaining weight, which can be a problem when dealing with cancer. The article provides specific nutritional advice for patients facing a lung cancer diagnosis.

Finally, this issue includes highlights from a recent oncology conference, where important new clinical trial results were announced that relate to new drug discoveries for the treatment of patients with lung cancer, specifically for those with lung cancer and some gene mutations or biomarkers—the type of lung cancer that is caused by these mutations or biomarkers and usually has nothing to do with smoking.

We can all benefit from being better informed about lung cancer. Consider passing this journal along to others you know who also may benefit from reading this information.

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Last modified: December 7, 2020

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