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Understanding the Stigma of Lung Cancer: Breaking Down Misconceptions

This blog aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the stigma surrounding lung cancer, debunking misconceptions and promoting empathy and support for individuals affected by this disease.

What is Lung Cancer?

“Be kind to your lung, for it is sponge-like organs in your chest that allows you to breathe and live”. Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the world and a leading cause of cancer-related death. In Mauritius, it ranks as the third most prevalent cancer in men. Out of the 1,431 cancer-related deaths in 2020, lung cancer was the second leading cause of death among males (15.1%) and the fifth among females (6.5%). Being diagnosed with cancer is an overwhelming and life-changing event. Unfortunately, those diagnosed with lung cancer often face stigma, which can have detrimental effects on their mental health and physical well-being. Stigma triggers feelings of shame, isolation, and judgment. As we prioritize raising awareness about cancer, particularly during November, let us also address the stigma surrounding lung cancer and debunk misconceptions that only add to the burdens of those already fighting this battle.

When you inhale, air enters your body through your mouth or nose and travels into your lungs through the trachea, also known as the windpipe. The trachea then branches out into bronchi, which further divide within the lungs to form smaller bronchi. These bronchi continue to divide and create even smaller branches called bronchioles. At the end of these bronchioles, there are tiny air sacs called alveoli.

The alveoli play a crucial role in the exchange of gases. They absorb oxygen from the inhaled air and transfer it into your bloodstream, while simultaneously removing carbon dioxide from the blood when you exhale. This process of taking in oxygen and eliminating carbon dioxide is the primary function of your lungs. Lung cancers typically originate from the cells that line the bronchi and other parts of the lungs, such as the bronchioles or alveoli.

In Mauritius, carcinoma lung is the third most common cancer among males, and 106 (9.5%) new cases were registered in 2020. 42 new cases were registered among females (2.6%) in 2020, ranking it ninth among females. The incidence of lung cancer reflects the smoking prevalence. About 90% of lung carcinoma arises as a result of tobacco use. The risk of developing lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and the duration over which an individual has been smoking.

Lung Cancer Stigmas

Stigma is the term used to describe the negative and unjust beliefs or perceptions held by society towards specific groups, conditions, or characteristics. This can result in discrimination, prejudice, or social exclusion, leading to individuals being unfairly judged or treated differently based on certain attributes or circumstances. Unlike other cancer diagnoses, lung cancer often faces harsh judgment.

  1. Blame and judgment: There is often a perception that there is a strong association between smoking and lung cancer. It is believed that individuals who develop lung cancer are responsible for their diagnosis. This blame and judgment can result in patients feeling guilty or ashamed, even if they have never smoked or have successfully quit smoking.
  2. Lack of sympathy and support: As a result, the stigma around lung cancer can lead to a lack of sympathy and support from others. As people may assume that lung cancer patients are solely responsible for their disease through smoking, empathy and support become absent.
  3. Limited research funding: Although it is one of the most common types of cancer around the world and is known to be one of the primary causes of cancer-related deaths, lung cancer has historically received less research funding in comparison to other types of cancer. This unequal distribution of funding not only perpetuates the existing stigma but also hampers progress in areas such as prevention, early detection, and treatment options.
  4. Stereotyping and discrimination: Being diagnosed with cancer is an abrupt event that shakes the lives of patients and their relatives. In addition to that, lung cancer patients are confronted with stigmas and misconceptions that may arise following their diagnosis. This can lead to social isolation, strained relationships, and difficulties in the workplace.

Lung cancer awareness remains one of the most powerful ways to spread knowledge about this disease and address the stigma that lung cancer patients often face. It is important to challenge these stigmas and promote understanding and compassion for individuals affected by lung cancer. Recognizing that lung cancer can affect anyone, regardless of their smoking history, and supporting efforts to increase awareness, research funding, and access to comprehensive care can help combat the stigma surrounding this disease.


Save A Life, Donate To Falcon Mauritius Cancer Institute (FMCI)

Donating to FMCI is easy! Simply visit our website and get in touch with our team, who will be ready to assist you. Alternatively, feel free to call us or pay a visit to our office in Ebene if you have any questions or need further information. We have more good news to share! You can also contribute to our branch in the USA, and rest assured that all funds will directly support our cause. Your generosity will have a great impact on the lives of those fighting cancer. Without donations, our association cannot effectively carry out its mission. Just as heroes thrive with the support of a sidekick, our cancer patients rely on your generous support.