“Were you a smoker?”

Did you know that 40 per cent of Australians admit to asking this question to someone who has been diagnosed with lung cancer, before expressing concern?

Each hour, an Australian watches a loved one die from lung cancer. According to the Cancer Council, it’s Australia’s biggest cancer killer – yet it only receives a fraction of cancer research funding.

Let’s look at some statistics.

  • 21 per cent of Australians with lung cancer have never been smokers.
  • 90% of Australians believe that smoking is the only cause of lung cancer.
  • Approximately 30% of people living with lung cancer blame themselves for their diagnosis.
  • Lung cancer is responsible for 1 in 5 cancer deaths.
  • 1 in 10 Australians believe that people with lung cancer “got what they deserved”.

As a nation, why do we view lung cancer in such a negative light?

David McDonald, an Australian who is living with lung cancer, has never smoked and developed lung cancer due to a genetic mutation.

“Overwhelmingly, the question people ask when they hear that I’ve got or had lung cancer is, ‘Were you a smoker?’ or ‘I didn’t know you were a smoker’.

“The hard thing is, I feel if I had been a smoker, that would feel like people were blaming me,” he said.

There are various kinds of cancer associated with certain lifestyle habits that don’t receive the same negative stigma from the Australian public.

“We don’t do that for other cancers, we don’t say when someone’s got melanoma, they obviously spent too long in the sun,” said David.

Three in five Australians are not seeking the treatment they deserve, due to the stigma from their employers, friends and even healthcare providers. The mental health of people with lung cancer is also being affected, with a report from the Lung Foundation of Australia finding that about half live with destress, anxiety and depression.

Whether anyone living with lung cancer has smoked or not, they deserve our support. Let’s remove the stigma.

If you have lungs, you’re at risk.

For more information, head to https://www.fairgoforlungcancer.org.au/