More than one in four people in Ireland believe non-smokers who have lung cancer should have their medical treatment prioritised over smokers, according to a survey.
The findings, which mark the beginning of International Lung Cancer Awareness Month, come as the wife of a man who died from lung cancer says society needs to be less judgemental of those who suffer from the disease.
The survey of 1,017 adults carried out on behalf of the Marie Keating Foundation’s ‘I Am Lung Cancer’ campaign found that 27% of the public believe that non-smokers who get lung cancer should have their treatment prioritised over those who smoke.
It also found that 17% believe that health insurers should not cover lung cancer patients who smoke, and 34% of adults agree that lung cancer patients face stigma from the public that other cancer patients don’t face.
One in 10 said they believe this is acceptable.
Broadcaster Venetia Quick lost her husband Martin to lung cancer earlier this year.
Launching the Marie Keating Foundation campaign, Ms Quick spoke about how stigma and judgement can feel.
When you’re diagnosed with lung cancer, there’s always one person who’ll make ‘the face’ and make reference to ‘those bloody cigarettes’,” she said.
“When somebody is diagnosed with cancer, it’s a tragedy. No matter what cancer. We all make different lifestyle choices. Getting cancer isn’t one of them.
“When you’re looking after and caring for someone you love with lung cancer it is so difficult to hear those words of blame and judgement. We need to be less judgmental when somebody gets lung cancer.
Nobody chooses to get cancer, and anybody can get it.”
Liz Yeates, CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation, said more people die from lung cancer every year than any other type of cancer.
It kills more women than breast cancer, despite breast cancer cases far outnumbering those of lung and more men die from lung cancer than prostate or testicular cancer,” she said.
“Many people have an image of who they believe a lung cancer patient is, but this campaign illustrates the variety of people it can affect. We want to change the conversation and tone around lung cancer from one of judgement to one of empathy and support.”
The survey found that 16% of respondents said they are well informed when it comes to the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, compared to 31% who said they are well informed in relation to breast cancer and 26% in relation to skin cancer.