Canadians with lung cancer are blamed for their illness.
Because smoking is seen as the main cause of lung cancer, patients face a stigma that causes many to go through cancer alone out of fear of judgment and feeling less worthy of help – whether they smoked or not. Quality of life suffers and mortality rates increase. All patients deserve care and compassion because no one deserves cancer.
Lung cancer is not only a “smoker’s cancer.”
If you have lungs you can get lung cancer. As many as 15 per cent of lung cancer patients didn’t smoke i and 35 per cent quit before they were diagnosed.ii Lung cancer is also caused by exposure to radon, asbestos and second-hand smoke. Genetics place some at higher risk.
Lung cancer is by far the largest cancer killer in Canada, but it is the least funded.
More people are expected to die from lung cancer than from colorectal, breast and pancreatic cancer combined. Sadly, lung cancer survival has barely improved in the last few decades, with only 19% of patients living at least five years.iii Stigma has stalled funding that gives people living with lung cancer a fighting chance.
Only one province has an early detection screening program.
In Canada, almost 50 per cent of lung cancer is diagnosed at stage IV, when it’s incurable. But, when proper screening programs are available, 75 per cent is diagnosed at an early stage, when it responds better to treatment.iv British Columbia recently announced it will have Canada’s first, and only, lung cancer screening program in spring 2022. All provinces and territories need to adopt consistent screening programs to increase early detection, improving survival rates, give more treatment options and dramatically reduce the cost to the health-care system.
Canadians die while waiting for access to the medicine they desperately need.
Science has advanced and innovated lung cancer treatment, but many patients wait too long for access to the medicine they desperately need. Some will even die waiting due to a drug approval process that is fragmented and inconsistent. We must speed up the approval process. We must also improve the affordability cancer drugs to ensure all Canadians have access to life-saving medication.
i Samet JM, Avila-Tang E, Boffetta P, et al. (2009). Lung cancer in never smokers: clinical epidemiology and environmental risk factors. Clinical Cancer Research. 15(18), 5626-5645
iii Canadian Cancer Society. Prognosis and Survival – Survival Statistics for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.