New study reveals one-in-five people in Ireland has less sympathy for people with lung cancer

Figures are released as Society announces new research to assess the needs of lung cancer patients

The Irish Cancer Society has called for better understanding of the needs of lung cancer patients in wider society as new statistics reveal that one-in-five (20%) people in Ireland has less sympathy for someone with lung cancer compared to those with other forms of cancer.

In 2017, the Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC) commissioned a study in 25 of its member countries, including Ireland, to understand attitudes towards lung cancer. The Irish Cancer Society released these findings to coincide with its annual Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

The Irish attitudes are in line with their global counterparts as 21% of people surveyed worldwide agreed that they have less sympathy for people with lung cancer than other forms of cancer. The study also revealed that men are generally less sympathetic than women towards people with lung cancer, and younger people are less sympathetic than older people.

Commenting on the findings, Aoife McNamara, Information Development Manager at the Irish Cancer Society, said: “No one should ever feel blamed for having cancer. Sadly, though, these new statistics would suggest that lung cancer patients are treated differently by the public, compared to people with other types of cancer. 

“Any sense of shame can hold someone back from seeking medical help, so it’s hugely important that we change our attitudes towards lung cancer.”
The study revealed a strong correlation between those countries with a lower incidence of smoking and a higher proportion of people agreeing that they have less sympathy for people with lung cancer.

Off the back of these findings, the GLCC is calling for global action to reduce stigma around lung cancer so that people are not discouraged from reporting their symptoms. It also wants to improve public education and understanding around lung cancer and its causes, something that the Irish Cancer Society wholeheartedly supports.

The figures are revealed as the Irish Cancer Society announces the beginning of new research into how to best address the needs of lung cancer patients and their families.

The Lung Cancer Needs Assessment research will be carried out by Pamela Gallagher, Professor of Psychology at DCU. Describing the research, Prof Gallagher said: “Living with lung cancer and its effects can be difficult for patients and caregivers, often requiring support to meet a range of physical and emotional needs. In Ireland, we don’t know enough about what needs patients and their caregivers have. 

“Our research will identify what these needs are and how services from the Irish Cancer Society can support them. We will do this by talking to people with lung cancer in Ireland and their carers so as to understand more about their individual experiences and see where current supports can be improved.”

She added: “Already research has shown higher levels of psychological distress among people with lung cancer compared to other cancer types. This is unsurprising as many may face issues of stigma, shame and blame, poor prognosis, debilitating symptoms and being diagnosed with a cancer that has a lower than average survival rate.”

Aoife McNamara added: “We welcome Prof Gallagher’s research and what it tells us about how the Irish Cancer Society’s services can meet the needs of people with lung cancer. The findings from this project will inform recommendations to the Society about what can be done to improve services for lung cancer patients and their families.”

Lung cancer is the fifth most common cancer in Ireland. It is estimated that around 2,500 people in Ireland were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017.

To speak to a cancer nurse on any aspect of lung cancer contact our Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700, email or drop into one of our 13 Daffodil Centres in hospitals nationwide. For information on Daffodil Centre locations and opening times email