Raw, new campaign tackles the nation’s lack of empathy for those living with lung cancer head on, asking Aussies to ditch their judgement and be somebody who cares about people living with lung cancer.
- New campaign a cry for compassion from those on the front line: Every hour, an Australian watches a loved one die from lung cancer.1 This campaign is calling for an end to the stigma that is a barrier to action.1
- Aussies with lung cancer deserve a fair go: Delayed diagnosis, a lack of research funding, and a reluctance to seek help are,2,3 in part, a result of more than a third (35%) of Aussies believing people with lung cancer are their “own worst enemy” who “have only themselves to blame.”2
- Instead of getting the support needed, patients suffer instead: Half of lung cancer patients live with distress, anxiety and/or depression, on top of their diagnosis,2 and are four times5 more likely to take their life compared to people living with other cancers.
SYDNEY, 21 JANUARY 2019: To stop stigma in its tracks in 2019, Lung Foundation Australia has today released an eye-opening new campaign to start the new year that sees the loved ones of Aussies living with lung cancer plead for support by confronting the severe lack of empathy4 in the community that plagues Australians living with lung cancer.
Every hour, an Australian watches a loved one die from lung cancer, it kills more people than breast and ovarian cancers combined.1 At the same time, more than a third (35%) of people believe those living with lung cancer are their “own worst enemy” who “have only themselves to blame”.2
As we kick off 2019, Lung Foundation Australia is reminding everyone that their judgement not only hurts Australians living with lung cancer and their loved ones, but impacts their quality of life at a time when many are vulnerable,2,3 explains Mark Brooke, Chief Executive Officer, Lung Foundation Australia.
“We’d like to hope that many Australians do not fully realise just how far-reaching the impact of their stigma can be; it results in delayed diagnoses, access to treatment, and a lack of research funding.
“We also know it makes people living with lung cancer reluctant to seek help and, distressingly, four times more likely to suicide than the general population.”
“Nobody deserves to have cancer, regardless of what type. Everyone deserves care, treatment, and support. In 2019, if we choose to suspend our judgement, and each do what we can to better support those living with lung cancer, we really can improve lives.
“Please ditch the stigma and be somebody who cares,” continues Mr Brooke. “Over 12,000 Australians are currently living with lung cancer. They, and their loved ones, deserve a fair go.”
“The Australian government needs to fully commit to a review of lung cancer research investment which lags behind other cancers, despite lung cancer having the poorest survivability statistics,” says Mr Brooke.
Today’s campaign launch is in direct response to public attitudes regarding lung cancer that Lung Foundation Australia know to be sadly, true; for almost 40% of Australians, the first question they would ask someone diagnosed with lung cancer – without first expressing concern – is whether they smoked.4 Whether anyone living with lung cancer smoked or not, they deserve support, not our judgement.
For participant, Ilsa Foreman, being involved in the campaign means spreading awareness for her mum’s condition.
“Before mum’s diagnosis, I had no idea of the numbers sadly affected by lung cancer. Now, we are a part of those statistics. Although I know it isn’t said with ill-intent, even friends and family would be quick to state ‘but she isn’t a smoker…’.”
“With more education on lung cancer, people can be more aware of what they’re saying and how those words might impact patients and their families.”
To learn more on the impact of stigma, and what you can do to better-support those living with lung cancer, please visit FairGoForLungCancer.org.au.
Despite the fact that approximately one fifth (21% per cent) of those living with lung cancer are life-long non-smokers,2 almost 90% of Australians believe smoking is the only lung cancer risk factor (despite other proven links including genetics, pollution and occupational exposure, for example).4
The campaign Lung Foundation Australia is launching today also comes off the back of the high-profile burden of lung cancer report launched in October 2018 in Parliament House, Canberra, by Lung Foundation Australia, in collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).2
Amongst a number of vital recommendations for Government to improve the outcomes for Australians living with lung cancer, the report singled-out the need for better psychosocial support across the country.2 In previous research, 60% of people living with lung cancer revealed they “do the things they love” less often, a third feel isolated, whilst 39% see their family and friends less.4 Furthermore, close to a quarter felt shame, guilt or fear of being discriminated against, whilst 41% felt stigmatised.4
Similarly, the new report painted a distressing picture regarding the significant mental health issues those living with lung cancer experience; approximately half have distress, anxiety and/or depression, with one study finding that there is insufficient support for the majority of people.2
The prevalence of anxiety and depression in those living with lung cancer is 29.6 per cent higher than the average of other major cancers.2
Furthermore, it is estimated there will be approximately 12,740 people newly diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018; nearly 35 a day, meaning 6,200 of these Australians are likely to develop anxiety and depression.2 Over the next decade, this means that approximately 131,400 people with lung cancer may experience anxiety and depression.2
At the same time, just 17 per cent of Australians survive five years after their diagnosis compared to Australians living with bowel cancer, breast cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer, which have survival rates between 69 and 95 per cent.2 “Lung cancer is a devastating diagnosis; those living with it have poor five-year survival rates when compared to four of the five most commonly diagnosed cancers,” explained Professor Christine Jenkins AM, Chair of Lung Foundation Australia, Clinical Professor and Thoracic Physician.
“It is imperative, therefore – in order to improve quality of life – that we as a nation rid ourselves of the stigma we know is having a devastating impact on the funding, research, treatment and support needed for people living with lung cancer and other lung diseases.
“We need to throw out these prejudices and ensure we are acknowledging and supporting people with lung disease.
“We know that Australians from all walks of life are not only living with the disease but are feeling isolated and discriminated against. Discrimination and stigma work against achieving good outcomes, because people delay seeking help and feel ashamed of their diagnosis. It also means healthcare services for people with lung cancer, and lung cancer research are not as well funded as they are in other more common, but much less lethal cancers.
“It’s imperative that we do all we can to ensure misinformation and stigma are no longer barriers to action and greater support,” concluded Professor Jenkins.
A snapshot of lung cancer in Australia
- Lung cancer affects many Australians and is the leading cause of cancer death in the country.2
- It is the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia and it is estimated that there will be approximately 12,740 people newly diagnosed in 2018.2
- This number is projected to reach almost 160,000 new diagnoses over the next 10 years to 2028.2
- Approximately one fifth (21% per cent) of those living with lung cancer are life-long non-smokers.2
- There is no regular screening test, and symptoms of lung cancer may go unnoticed by those living with the disease.1
- Lung cancer was the number one cause of cancer death in Australia in 2017 with 9,021 people dying of the disease, constituting almost one fifth (18.9 per cent) of all cancer deaths that year.2
- People living with lung cancer also have poor five-year survival rates when compared to the other four of the five most commonly diagnosed cancers.2
- From 2010 to 2014, people living with lung cancer had a 17 per cent chance of surviving for five years.2
- Further, the average life expectancy for Australians in 2018 is 82.5 years old, whereas lung cancer cuts this average life expectancy by almost 11 years to 71.7 years of age (median diagnosis age of 65 years old).2
- People who are diagnosed with lung cancer in an earlier stage have a better chance of survival than those diagnosed with later stage cancer.2
- There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which makes up 85 per cent of people diagnosed and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) which accounts for 15 per cent of diagnoses. People living with SCLC generally have lower survival rates.2
- Lung Foundation Australia, Improving outcomes for Australians with lung cancer: A Call to Action (2016). Available at: https://lungfoundation.com.au/wpcontent/uploads/2016/08/LFA-improving-outcomes-report-0816-proof10.pdf Date accessed: November 2018.
- PwC Lung Cancer Economic Impact Report. Available at: https://lungfoundation.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Information-paper-Making-Lung-Cancer-A-Fair-Fight-A-Blueprint-for-Reform-Oct2018.pdf Last accessed: December 2018.
- Cancer Council. Lung cancer stigma – what are the harms for survivors? Available at: https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/blog/lung-cancer-stigma-harms-survivors/. Date accessed: November 2018.
- The Lung Foundation. PureProfile Consumer Survey. September 2017.
- American Thoracic Society. 2017. Among All Cancers, Lung Cancer Appears to Put Patients at Greatest Suicide Risk. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.thoracic.org/about/newsroom/press-releases/conference/2017/rahouma-and-lung-cancer-and-suicide.phpDate accessed: December 2018