Stigma increasing distress for people with lung cancer

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There is growing evidence to suggest that stigma is contributing to psychological distress for patients following a diagnosis of lung cancer.

“The diagnosis of cancer is stressful and confronting for anyone and for many people with lung cancer, this can be compounded by feelings of guilt, shame, distress and isolation,” Cancer Australia CEO Professor Helen Zorbas said.

“A review of evidence commissioned by Cancer Australia suggests that lung cancer patients, more so than those with other cancers, may feel stigmatised by their disease, which may increase feelings of distress about the cancer.

“Further, the review suggests that stigma and nihilism associated with lung cancer may lead to delays in seeking treatment.

“It’s important to address this stigma to ensure that all people with cancer access and receive the treatment and support they need.”

In Australia lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women.

Professor Zorbas said that while tobacco smoking continues to be the largest single cause of lung cancer, the disease can occur in both smokers and non-smokers, none of whom should suffer the added burden of stigma due to their disease.

“Symptoms of lung cancer include coughing up blood, a new or changed cough, chest or shoulder pain or shortness of breath, unexplained weight loss or an unresolved chest infection,” Professor Zorbas said.

“Lung cancer diagnosed at an earlier stage, particularly when confined to the lung, is associated with improved survival.  If anyone has symptoms it is important not to ignore them and see their GP.”

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.  Cancer Australia has today released a guide to assist GPs in the assessment of people with symptoms that may be lung cancer and the timely referral to the expert team who can provide the appropriate treatment and support. 

Cancer Australia will also release a community audio-visual resource on stigma and nihilism associated with lung cancer later this month.    

To find out more information on lung cancer as well as information on issues around stigma and nihilism associated with lung cancer and the Lung Cancer GP guide, please visit  More information about the Australian Government’s tobacco control initiatives can be found at

Media contact: Josh McIntosh (02) 9357 9401 or 0438 209 833