Monthly Archives: October 2013

Stigma presents an extra burden for many lung cancer patients

By J. Lee Westmaas, PhD

 

Some of us, at some point in time, have felt judged negatively by others or discriminated against because of some personal characteristic or behavior. Researchers refer to this as feeling stigmatized, and lung cancer patients report feeling this way more than patients with other types of cancers.

Many individuals with lung cancer fear that others will react to their diagnosis with blame, exclusion, rejection and/or discrimination. Many actually experience this as well.  A primary reason is that smoking is so strongly linked to lung cancer.

Blaming the victim

Lung cancer was one of the first diseases to be identified as caused by smoking. Smoking rates have decreased dramatically since the 1960s due to laws to restrict smoking, greater publicity on the many harms of smoking, and a change in public attitudes toward smoking. [more]

A result of these changes may be a “blame-the-victim” attitude toward someone who gets lung cancer. In one study, individuals with lung cancer (92% of whom were smokers) more often agreed with the statement “my behavior contributed to my cancer” compared to people with breast and prostate cancer, which are less strongly linked with smoking. Lung cancer patients were also more likely to agree with the statements:

  •  “I am ashamed I got my type of cancer,”
  • “My family feels ashamed of my type of cancer,” and
  • “I am embarrassed to tell people my type of cancer,”

when compared to breast and prostate cancer patients.… Continue reading →

Should women at high risk for breast cancer take drugs to prevent it?

By James C. Salwitz, MD

Breast cancer will kill more than 450,000 women worldwide this year, and in the United States alone, 232,000 will be newly diagnosed. Two important recent events shift the conversation from disease treatment to prevention. The most public was the stunning statement of actress Angelina Jolie that she had both her breasts removed because she carried a breast cancer gene (BRCA1). This announcement served to greatly increase awareness and discussion of choice in preventing the disease. 

Second, was the decision by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) to recommend the use of medications for prevention of breast cancer in women who are at increased risk.

Many factors influence breast cancer risk


In order to prevent breast cancer, we must first understand its causes. While we do not know all, we do understand that certain factors increase the chance of getting breast cancer. Some of these risk factors can be reduced through improved lifestyle, but not all.

Most breast cancer occurs not because of known genetic mutations, but because of a combination of risk factors. One important risk factor is increasing age, with most breast cancers occurring in women 55 years of age and older.

Some risk factors include an early age for a first period (start of menses), a late first pregnancy, and no pregnancy at all.… Continue reading →