Lung Cancer Stigma

My mom passed away on 21 October 2013 from stage 4 lung cancer (adeno). Mom had quit smoking over 30 years ago and was 67 when she died. The thing that sticks in my head and annoys me so much is the stigma and the lack of funding this disease gets. Every time I have said my mom has lung cancer or she died from lung cancer the first thing that is asked is did she smoke and when I say no she quit over 30 years ago they go oh well that is a shame then. It annoys me that people think it is ok for someone to have lung cancer if they smoke. Nobody thinks oh it could have been from the diesel you out in your car and the emissions it sends. I hate that people think someone deserved it because they smoked. The survival rate is so low and the funding is a lot less than any other cancer and it makes me so mad. What can we do?

Last edited by

9 Replies

  • so ture I know how you feel I live whith some one that smokes and he will not stop and I think that people are sellfell about lung cancer I can not stand people who smoke around people that have had lung cancer so sorry to hear about your mother

  • I know how you are feeling right now I lost my wife Chris to the same condition in August, it had metastasized and after a difficult road with chemo she passed away. I have the feeling that to some degree she became an experiment and now a statistic. Yes she did smoke but her father died of the same disease over 15 years ago so maybe she was predisposed to getting it, even if like you mom she had stopped years ago. After researching I was also shocked at how low the survival rate is and when you tell people that she has lung cancer they already know there is no hope even if you feel she might be the first one. All the time we see adverts for other cancers yet lung cancer does not have that exposure. Even articles in the newspapers have highlighted the poor funding for research of this disease and the fact it kills more people than the others put together yet nothing seems to be done. There also is a rise in people who have never smoked so tobacco is not the only cause. As to your last question, I don't know.


  • Stigmatisation stops many people presenting early. While we strive to achieve the aim of a smoke free environment,…. Sadly the people who suffer the effects of their smoking behaviour have to live with the stigma that unfortunately becomes part of the burden that lung cancer brings with it.

    For me, a constant reminder of the stigma is the almost inevitable first question I’m asked when people hear I’m a Lung cancer patient, “Did you smoke?”

    I doubt those people would ask someone with Bowel cancer, “Didn’t you have your five a day?” or people with skin cancer didn't you use sun block?

    The ramifications of the smoking stigma are profound. We can see this by the huge disparity in funding levels, compared with other common Cancers. We need to challenge the funders and ask,… what about us? You give it to people suffering the effects of many other illnesses… which can all be attributed to life style.

  • So sorry for the loss of your mum. I'm think it's very insensitive to ask you did she smoke. I believe those people are at risk and I usually tell them. The stigma has been created by the lack of health education and in particular the charities. Only the other day someone told me how Roy Castle had died because he smoked! I believed I wasn't at risk before I was diagnosed too late, Stage IV. Something is very wrong. Until someone or a charity like Cancer Research UK (highly unlikely as I think they do a poor job with lung cancer awareness) starts sending out a sensible message it's going to be slow.

  • Hi Biffa whoever told you that Roy Castle died because he smoked was wrong. Roy never smoked in his life. His lung cancer was caused through passive smoking, caused from taking in great gulps of air while blowing into his trumpet in smoke filled theatres throughout his career. I met him on a number of occasions.

  • So so sorry for you loss. My mum has adenocarinoma never smoked in her life, she has never worked in a pub or lived with a smoker . I feel very cross that she has lung cancer as she was so against smoking.

    There isn't much funding for this kind of research. I only read an article the other day about how this type of cancer is on the increase and people smoking has decreased, ther are so many different chemical in our environment who knows what triggers this disease. My mum is only 63.

    Thinking of you x

  • My heart goes out to you, i lost my beloved dad on 14 oct 2012 to lung cancer, eventually it travelled to his liver. my dad was a miner and also smoked , but not very much. he stopped smoking about 40 years ago but like you say, people still blame that. my dad had chemo and was great throughout. my concern is after the fist lot of chemo finished , the hospital only did xrays which didnt really show anything, only when he had been coughing lots for months did they finally do an mri, but that was too late, the damage was done. I cant understand why so little is done for this type of cancer, we constantly hear fundraising for breast and prostate cancer yet lung cancer is rarely mentioned. the survival rates are so low. its awful to think of all the families going through this hell that we are . you probably feel the same as me , I loved my dad more than life itself, he was such an amazing man that i feel everyone should have had the pleasure of meeting him, I could talk about him all day. Take one step at a time. thinking about you and all your family and remembering you in my prayers, god bless . June xxxx

  • enj

    sorry to hear about your mom, it is a difficult enough experience losing a parent without facing lack of sympathy from others. At Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation we are trying to increase funding for lung cancer research, offer support to people with lung cancer and change attitudes to this disease. We have a lot of work to do but are determined that things will change.

    Part of what makes a difference to people's attitudes is sharing the real stories about lung cancer. If any of you are willing to let me use things you have written above in talking to professionals and the general public about lung cancer, or would be willing for them to be used on our website or printed material that would be helpful. If you would like to get more involved you can private message me with an email address. You use the "envelope" on the tool bar at the top.

    best wishes


    on behalf of the Information & Support service

  • I feel realy angry that my lung cancer wasn't diagnosed soon enough by my G.P until it was too late,I was fobbed off with an asthma nurse,who said it wasn't asthma.I went back to drs who then said it was multiple chemical sensitivity it wasn't until I went back with terrible pain in my ribs that I was sent for an x-ray.Eventual diagnosis was adenocarcinoma terminal,I am a non smoker,but feel that there is a stigma attatched to my illness.There isn't enough awareness of this disease .

You may also like...