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When we hear of someone having cancer, our sympathetic emotion immediately turns on:

“I feel sorry for them.”

“Keep fighting the fight.”

“You can beat this cancer.”

That same yield of support is virtually nonexistent if a person has lung cancer. Lung cancer is often associated with the lethal habit of cigarette smoking.

The stigma has minimized compassion for suffering victims. People often feel the punishment fits the crime. This leaves lung cancer patients to suffer while feeling ashamed and hopeless.

What the public fails to realize is that smoking is not the sole cause of lung cancer. In fact more than 60 percent of new cancer diagnoses are developed among people who have never smoked or have quit smoking decades before.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is now a leading cause of cancer. In 2010, 223,000 people died of lung cancer related to air pollution. Given this information, it seems any human with lungs is susceptible to this disease and we all should walk around wearing face masks.

Perhaps that’s a bit extreme, but the point is cancer has no prejudice. Everyone deserves attention and compassion.

Lung cancer claims the lives of twice as many women as breast cancer and almost three times as many men as prostate cancer. Yet, it receives very low federal funding for research due to the negative stigma it carries. Despite funding gaps, oncologists are determined to make progress with therapy options until effective treatment is made available.

In lieu of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, I encourage everyone to understand the facts of the disease, help bring forth awareness and reduce the stigma. Let’s support everyone fighting the good fight against lung cancer.