Many Australians do not fully realise just how far-reaching the impact of their stigma can be. The fact is, stigma results in delayed diagnoses, poor access to treatment, and a lack of research funding.
Lung Foundation Australia is standing side-by-side with the Australian lung cancer specialists and nurses who see the daily impact of systemic stigma on patient outcomes. They can’t sit idly and wait – not when they’re losing their patients.
This frustration is why eight lung cancer specialists and nurses have chosen to share their stories and lead our most direct call to end the stigma. They are fronting our latest campaign calling for lung cancer to finally be “Free From Stigma!” (FFS!).
The colloquial meaning of the campaign’s tagline – FFS! – is intentional. It captures the frustrations of the lung cancer community. Through the voices of some of Australia’s leading clinicians and nurses – it is clear that enough is enough. We won’t stop until we are truly free from stigma.
Mary Duffy, Advanced Practice Nurse Lung Cancer Nurse Consultant at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre tells us about her passion for working with people living with lung cancer, her latest research interests and what drove her to be involved in the FFS! campaign.
What led you to working with lung cancer patients?
\My relationship with lung cancer patients and their families started when I worked on the wards at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. They won my heart over very quickly and our relationship has blossomed since then. Something which has always struck me is how humble they are – always grateful for any treatment they are offered for their lung cancer but also for their symptom management. From the very beginning I was in awe of how they trusted us implicitly, they shared their life stories and allowed us to assist them with both their physical and emotional difficulties. Through the relationships I’ve built over the years, I felt a strong sense of moral obligation to make the wider community we all live in aware of the enormous impact lung cancer makes.
What is the latest research in lung cancer that is of interest to you?
I’m very interested in anything that is evidence-based, scientific research relating to lung cancer and thoracic malignancies – particularly in this exciting era where so much progress is been made so quickly. Some key areas of interest to me include the patient experience, how their symptoms are managed and the psychological or mental health impact living with lung cancer has. As a lung cancer nurse there is significant research that is being translated into clinical practice for nurses that improves the quality of life for people living with lung cancer. This research helps us to improve the overall patient experience and outcome.
What would you like to see change in the lung cancer space?
Lung cancer is Australia’s biggest cancer killer but it receives a small fraction of cancer research funding. Research changes lives – it investigates prevention, treatments and searches for a cure. We need more access to research funds across the board.
What advice would you give to people seeking treatment options for lung cancer?
My key piece of advice for people who require treatment for lung cancer is that they should always seek opinion from a lung Multidisciplinary Team (MDT). MDTs are a collaboration of expert clinical and non-clinical staff from various specialties who meet regularly to develop and review treatment plans for patients under the team’s care. This approach works to improve the care and outcomes for people with lung cancer by minimising delays between diagnosis and starting treatment.
What compelled you to take part in the FFS! Campaign? What do you hope the campaign will achieve?
I took part in the FFS! Campaign to, in some small way, do my bit for the people I care for. I hope to see the campaign change community opinion and begin the eradication of the shame and stigma tagged to lung cancer.
What are five things you do to relax?
Whilst my job can be quite demanding, it is worth it because it is immensely rewarding.
- Spend time doing enjoyable things with my wonderful partner, Mark, who is very supportive.
- Walking along the beach.
Mary is also Chair of our Australia and New Zealand Lung Cancer Nurses Forum, a group of passionate nurses who work to improve patient care, health care delivery and outcomes for lung cancer patients, their families and carers.