Stomping Out the Smoking Stigma for Patients with Lung Cancer
When others assume that patients with lung cancer must have smoked to get the disease, this stigma can affect patient outcomes.
BY Sarah Christ
PUBLISHED December 05, 2019
There is a stigma surrounding patients with lung cancer, where individuals believe the patient developed lung cancer due to smoking, which isn’t true for all patients. However, this stigma ultimately hurts the outcomes of these patients, according to Sarah Christ.
Sarah Christ is herself a stage four lung cancer survivor and patient advocate who has had to deal with this stigma, but looks to fight it through sharing her own story and explaining that patients with lung cancer can get the disease even if they are healthy and do not smoke.
This was a tactic Christ shared with over eighty patients at the CURE® Patient-Focused Sessions at the New York Lung Cancers Symposium®, where she had the chance to present on ways to stomp out this stigma for patients with lung cancer. Christ also sat down with CURE® to discuss her own story and why she feels every patient should tell their lung cancer story to anyone who will listen.
I have made it my mission to tell my story to anyone who will listen - literally anyone, I will tell it anywhere. I'll tell it to strangers. And people might think, oh, she's quite the narcissist, just looking for attention, she's looking for sympathy, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I'm telling my story, because the more people hear stories of just average lung cancer patients, the more they're going to break that stigma down. When I tell people, I'm living with stage 4 lung cancer, the reaction is almost inevitably one of shock.
I'd like us to get to the point where people understand that someone who looks like me, someone who lives a healthy lifestyle like me, someone who hasn't smoked since college like me, is still susceptible to this disease that anybody with lungs can get lung cancer.
I really urge anybody in this community, even if it's way outside your comfort zone, to tell your story. Tell your story to people so that the next time they meet a lung cancer patient they're like, "Oh, right. I know this happens. I met another woman. I met a young man who had this situation. I understand it a little more."