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Lung Cancer Patients Get Blamed for Their Disease
Date:11/14/2008

Survey finds nearly two-thirds of Americans believe so, even though most victims don't smoke at diagnosis

FRIDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- A majority of Americans, including many health-care workers, believe that people who have lung cancer are at least partly to blame for their disease, a new survey finds.

In the poll of nearly 1,500 American adults, researchers found 59 percent of respondents agreeing with the notion that lung cancer patients helped bring on their diagnosis.

It's a bias that over time has led to fewer resources to investigate the number one cancer killer in the U.S, and added shame to the burden that lung cancer patients must carry, experts said.

"Sadly, the stigma has been used to justify underfunding, not only of research but also of programs for early detection and treatment," said Laurie Fenton Ambrose, president and CEO of Lung Cancer Alliance, a private organization providing support and advocacy for people with lung cancer.

Lung cancer is among the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The American Lung Association estimates that more then 215,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, and more than 161,000 will die of the disease. Between 10 percent and 15 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed in nonsmokers, the association estimates.

Too many people cast blame for lung cancer on the individual patient, due to the mistaken belief that all cases of the disease are caused by current smoking, Ambrose said. The truth is that "over 60 percent of people with lung cancer are former or never smokers," she noted. "No one deserves this disease. It is a public health epidemic, and you don't need to be a current smoker to be diagnosed with it."

But the prejudice against lung cancer patients is affecting patients. The Lung Cancer Alliance survey, which received some finding from drug maker Astra-Zeneca, also included 204 people with l
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