Stigma as a barrier to diagnosis of lung cancer: patient and general practitioner perspectives
The prognosis for people with lung cancer may be worsened by delays in seeking medical help following the onset of symptoms. Previous research has highlighted that patients’ experiences of stigma and blame may contribute to these delays.
This short report focuses on stigma as a barrier to diagnosis of lung cancer, from patient and general practitioner (GP) perspectives.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with people diagnosed with lung cancer (n=20) and with GPs (n=10) in New South Wales, Australia. Participants’ experiences of blame and stigma, GPs preconceptions of lung cancer risk and the impact of anti-smoking messaging were explored.
Participants reported experiencing stigma owing to a diagnosis of lung cancer. For some, the anticipation of stigma resulted in delays in seeking diagnosis and hence treatment. The sense of blame associated with a lung cancer diagnosis was also reflected in GP interviews.
Successful tobacco control activities have increased societal awareness of lung cancer as smoking related and potentially contributed to the participants’ experiences of stigma. Removing blame associated with smoking is central to reducing delays in diagnosis of lung cancer.