Many lung cancer sufferers find they face a stigma that ultimately reduces their quality of life, a new study has found.
Presented by Cancer Australia to the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia's Annual Scientific Meeting, the report showed that this is the case for both smokers and non-smokers alike.
Research co-author Sue Sinclair explained that coping with lung cancer is difficult for anyone, so dealing with a stigma as well can make the situation even worse.
Just 17 per cent of the sufferers questioned said they had access to the services of a mental healthcare professional, while just one in five said they intended to seek psychological support.
"It is important to address stigma associated with lung cancer so that those people diagnosed receive the full-range of treatment and support available to them," noted Ms Sinclair.
President of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Sandro Porceddu said the stigma needs to be addressed, as it is presently creating a barrier to both diagnosis and support.
"Patients may be less likely to go to their doctor with symptoms if they feel they are likely to be judged and less likely to seek support," he noted.
Mr Porceddu stressed that a non-judgemental approach is needed to help give people the confidence they need to access services to make their lives easier.
Lung cancer is currently the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in Australia, so the need for these psychological services has perhaps never been greater.
Figures from Cancer Australia show that although headway is being made in lowering lung cancer rates across the nation, it still remains one of the biggest health problems.
The incidence of men diagnosed with lung cancer has fallen from 85.2 cases per 100,000 in 1982 to 55.7 cases per 100,000 in 2009.
However, for women the incidence rate has increased from 18.2 cases to 33.1 over the same time frame.
At the end of 2007, it was estimated that 19,854 people were alive who had been diagnosed with lung cancer in the previous 26 years, including 12,606 who had received their diagnosis just five years previously.
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