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Unraveling the 'black ribbon' around lung cancer
Date:4/17/2014

It's not uncommon these days to find a colored ribbon representing a disease. A pink ribbon is well known to signify breast cancer. But what color ribbon does one think of with lung cancer?

Although white has been identified as the designated color, for many suffering from the disease, black may be the only one they think fits.

A Michigan State University study consisting of lung cancer patients, primarily smokers between the ages of 51 to 79 years old, is shedding more light on the stigma often felt by these patients, the emotional toll it can have and how health providers can help.

"It's eye opening when a patient says to you that they feel like lung cancer 'just gets shoved under the rug,'" said Rebecca Lehto, who led the project and is an assistant professor with MSU's College of Nursing. "Patients in one of the focus groups actually associated lung cancer with a black ribbon."

Previous research has shown that lung cancer carries a stigma. Because lung cancer is primarily linked to smoking behaviors, the public's opinion of the disease can often be judgmental. Today, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death globally.

Yet Lehto indicates that up to 25 percent of lung cancer patients worldwide have never smoked. The World Health Organization has identified air pollution as a cause, and genetics also have been associated with the disease.

"No matter how a patient gets lung cancer, it shouldn't affect the care they receive or the role empathy should play," she said.

Lehto's goal is to raise awareness among health care providers about the additional burden stigma places on patients and develop patient care strategies that strengthen coping skills and symptom management.

"Understanding a disease from the patient's perspective is essential to providing the best medical care to anyone," she said.

The study evaluated feedback from four focus groups; a format Lehto suggests is uncommon in this particular area of
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Contact: Sarina Gleason
sarina.gleason@cabs.msu.edu
517-355-9742
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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Unraveling the 'black ribbon' around lung cancer
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