Lung cancer – two words that no-one wants to hear. Our eyes are shut to this awful disease. A total of 5069 Scots are diagnosed, 4178 die each year.
This is not a modern, fluffy cancer, with public sympathy. People rarely endure treatment and expect their lives back, however altered by the “cancer journey”.
Lung cancer is old fashioned. It is spoken of in fearful whispers. For too many it is a dead-end path. It kills more than 70 per cent of those diagnosed within a year. If ever a cancer needed a public awareness campaign it was lung. The Cinderella cancer, as our charity founder named it needs to get its turn of the ball. That is why the Detect Cancer Early lung cancer campaign is vital.
I have spent 13 lucky years in cancer charities. I have heard many stories about how, “I am sorry you have cancer” changes lives. My low point was being told of a woman, so worn down by unsympathetic reactions that she decided to say she had breast cancer instead. This is stigma in action.
Our society has a tortured relationship with tobacco. It has an addictive presence in our culture. It is an income that costs quality and quantity of life. Tobacco lobbies our governments, enslaves us, proliferating and mutating to ensure its survival. It is almost as cunning and destructive as lung cancer.
Where do we place the blame? At each door marked with the “c” word. We ignore the ten – 15 per cent of those with lung cancer who were never smokers. Earlier diagnosis is key to the change we need to make.
This campaign fronted by Sir Alex Ferguson, gives a voice to some of our Cinderellas. They are viewed as the agents of their own demise. Yet lung cancer can be effectively treated and potentially cured if caught early. Innovations in screening and treatment offer hope. I am hopeful about this campaign, hopeful that it sends a message to those who are oblivious to the risk of lung cancer. Hopeful that we can give “extra time” back to those without the power to make it for themselves.
• Lorraine Dallas is Director of Information & Support at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation