What’s the one thing the U.S. government’s “no smoking” policy has accomplished over the last 30 years? To lower lung cancer death rates? Improve quality of life or longevity? Pave the way for better screening or treatments?
No. It’s done none of that.
The only thing it’s done is to stigmatize lung cancer. And, in the process, made millions of honest, taxpaying men and women who get lung cancer feel guilty and ashamed. This negatively affects what treatments are available. And it also impairs the effectiveness of those limited treatments.
I have told you this before, but it’s not just my opinion. Two recent studies conducted by top cancer centers found that discrimination against lung cancer victims is a very real problem. And it impacts patient care. I’ll tell you more about those studies in a moment. But first, let’s take a closer look at the problem of lung cancer…
I have often reported how the U.S. government has essentially ignored lung cancer for 30 years. It’s the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths in the United States. And it causes one-third of all cancer deaths in the U.S. In fact, lung cancer kills more people than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. And it’s the single most common cause of all deaths, after heart disease.
Yet, we don’t have better screening techniques now than we did decades ago. Nor do we have better treatments, as we do for other major cancers and chronic diseases.
All the U.S. government has to offer is smoking cessation and prevention policies. But new Japanese research showed yet again that lung cancer does indeed have a strong genetic link. Just like all the other major types of cancer. It’s not simply a “self-inflicted” disease caused by smoking. In fact, “never-smokers” now account for about 15 percent or more of all lung cancer victims.
But in this country, lung cancer is still largely considered a “self-inflicted”’ disease. And the government continues to push policies that discriminate against lung cancer victims. So, victims carry around a lot of guilt because of all this propaganda.
As I mentioned earlier, two recent studies conducted at major cancer centers in the U.S. took a closer look at how we discriminate against lung cancer victims.
Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas conducted the first study. This online study involved more 1,700 respondents from different sectors. Including healthcare providers, public caregivers, and patients.
The survey assessed respondents’ attitudes about lung cancer versus breast cancer. For example, they asked respondents if people with lung cancer or breast cancer ought to feel ashamed about their disease. They also showed pictures aimed at assessing the respondents’ hidden attitudes about lung cancer.
The researchers found that across all sectors, an overwhelming majority of respondents had negative attitudes about lung cancer. And relatively sympathetic attitudes about breast cancer. And even health care providers exhibited this bias.
Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York took notice of this recent study. And they designed a survey of their own.
In this follow-up, Sloan-Kettering researchers surveyed more than 2,000 lung cancer patients. They found that a staggering 27 percent of these victims were “never- smokers.” (Despite these numbers, the U.S. government still refuses to address any risk factor for lung cancer other than smoking.) The majority of the victims were former smokers, who already took the government’s advice and stopped smoking. And just 16 percent of them were actually current smokers.
Clearly, many former-smokers still get cancer. Even though the government tells us the best way to avoid lung cancer is to stop smoking. Or to never smoke.
But even never-smokers aren’t safe.
Remember, in the Sloan-Kettering survey, a staggering 27 percent of their patients qualified as “never smokers.”
Indeed, we now see a growing trend of “never- smokers” getting lung cancer. Especially among younger women.
Experts now believe that estrogen may play a role in young women never-smokers who develop lung cancer. As with the biggest risk factors for breast cancer, it turns out that three factors may contribute to lung cancer in young women never-smokers:
- Younger age at menarche
- Fewer and later pregnancies
- Lack of breastfeeding
Clearly, the research shows that lung cancer is not purely a “self-inflicted” disease. But of course, as with the strongest breast cancer risk factors, these are not politically correct reasons. So we don’t investigate these facts.
In addition, women with lung cancer who took hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs also appear to have a poorer prognosis. Of course, unlike breast cancer, we don’t completely understand what role HRT might play in lung cancer. And that’s because the government stopped doing any serious research on lung cancer 30 years ago! Instead, it continues to plod along focused exclusively on anti-smoking campaigns.
Still don’t believe discrimination against lung cancer victims is real?
I’ll ask you a quick question: What is the color of the lung cancer ribbon?
The answer: There is no ribbon. And there is almost no money behind lung cancer research.
In fact, a few years back the New York Times ran an article that called lung cancer “the biggest loser” in the cancer-funding race. As I said earlier, lung cancer kills more people every year than any other cancer. Yet on a per-fatality basis, it gets the least amount of funding.
In 2012, the federal government devoted more than $21,000 in research per breast cancer death. Yet it only made available about $1,400 per lung cancer death. So lung cancer receives less than a paltry 6.7 percent of what breast cancer takes in.
One “expert” at the National Cancer Institute recently said it’s not worth helping lung cancer victims because they don’t care about their health anyway! (Welcome to the world of politically correct brainwash that passes for scientific policy.)
Lung cancer is a devastating diagnosis by itself. Without the added “guilty” label that results from the government’s biased policy. And when patients feel badly about themselves, it interferes with the treatments that are available.
Lung cancer victims shouldn’t be ashamed. The government should be ashamed for these negligent and discriminatory practices.
- Annual Meeting of the Society of Clinical Oncology, 2013, Joan H. Schiller, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
- “Lung cancer: Why the guilt trip?” Medscape (www.medscape.com) 8/12/2013
- “Cancer Funding: Does it Add Up?” New York Times (www.nytimes.com) 3/6/2008
- “Leading Causes of Death,” Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) 1/11/2013
- “SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Lung and Bronchus Cancer,” National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)