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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, November 04, 2015

 
Chris Christie sounds almost human. But that doesn't mean he knows what he's talking about

by digby

So everyone is all excited about Chris Christie sounding almost human in this video in which he claims that his mother was never stigmatized for being addicted to cigarettes and getting lung cancer and so addiction to other drugs shouldn't be stigmatized either. Obviously, I agree that addiction to other drugs should not be stigmatized and should be treated by the medical community. But he's just wrong about lung cancer:
When Sherry Stoll was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2011, her community rallied around her. Friends, family and even strangers sent fruit baskets, handmade blankets, get-well cards and restaurant gift cards so she wouldn’t have to worry about cooking meals while going through chemo and radiation.

It was an interesting experience for the 53-year-old from Pittsburgh, especially since it wasn’t her first bout with cancer. A year and a half earlier, she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

The response from her community then? Crickets.

“There was definitely a lack of support and sympathy,” said Stoll, a stay-at-home mom who now runs the nonprofit lung cancer advocacy group, We Wish. “My family was there for me, but most people when they heard about it, were like, ‘Wow, that’s really a shame. Did you smoke?’”

Most people know that lung cancer is an aggressive killer, caused by a number of factors including smoking, genetic mutations and environmental exposures to carcinogens like radon and asbestos. But more and more patients, doctors and researchers are pointing to another harmful influence contributing to the suffering, delayed diagnosis and possibly even early deaths of those hit with the disease: stigma.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. Most patients are diagnosed late (symptoms usually don’t present until the cancer is advanced) and screening methods that can detect the disease at earlier, more curable stages have only very recently become available.

This year alone, about 221,000 people will be handed a lung cancer diagnosis and half will die within a year. All told, lung cancer kills more people every year than breast, colon, prostate and pancreatic cancers combined. Its five-year survival rate is a meager 17.8 percent. Five-year survival rates for breast and prostate cancers are 90 and 99 percent, respectively.

Sadly, funding for lung cancer research is as low as the death rate is high. According to a 2013 post on the website for the American Society of Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, “many individuals will spend more annually on round-trip airfares than either the U.S. or the United Kingdom spends on research per lung cancer death.”

Why the paucity of funding for lung cancer research?

Many point to its association with smoking, even though lung cancer is not exclusively a smokers’ disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 18 percent of people diagnosed with the disease here in the U.S. have never smoked.

Still, a pervasive stigma exists, a phenomenon aptly described by a team of Oxford researchers in one of the first studies on the subject.

“Whether they smoked or not, [patients] felt particularly stigmatized because the disease is so strongly associated with smoking,” they wrote in a 2004 paper in BMJ. “Interaction with family, friends and doctors was often affected as a result and many patients, particularly those who had stopped smoking years ago or had never smoked, felt unjustly blamed for their illness … Some patients concealed their illness, which sometimes had adverse financial consequences or made it hard for them to gain support from other people … A few patients worried that diagnosis, access to care, and research into lung cancer might be adversely affected by the stigma attached to the disease and those who smoke.”

Ten years later, not much has changed.

Two recent studies found an association between lung cancer stigma and delayed diagnosis and treatment. Another pointed out the profound effect stigma has had on research funding and quality of care, both with regard to physicians’ attitudes toward patients and patients’ attitudes toward themselves. A fourth compared lung cancer stigma with that of four other cancer types.

Not surprisingly, lung cancer beat all comers.

Compared to other types of cancer, research into lung cancer has been dramatically underfunded.
Not that Chris Christie would do anything about that since he wants to starve the research community of federal funds as all Republicans do and leave it to the profit seeking private sector. But it's important to note that in our puritanical society, diseases which we judge as being the patient's "own fault" are not treated with the same vigor and compassion that diseases we are told cannot be avoided are treated --- and lung cancer is at the top of the list.

Christie's right that we shouldn't make moral judgments about diseases. But then he goes into a "pro-life" rant about fetuses which reminds me that he would deny life-saving research because of his inane insistence that blastocysts, zygotes and unviable fetuses are full human beings. So I don't really think he brings as much value to this discussion as people seem to believe he does.

Still, baby steps. He's a Republican who isn't demonizing drugs so that's a good first step. It would be helpful if he wasn't also full of it about everything else.

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