Psychosocial Support May Reduce Stigma for Patients With Lung Cancer

November 13, 2018

Because of the relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, patients who receive a lung cancer diagnosis may feel judgment compared to patients with other cancer diagnoses, which could affect social interactions between family, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. Perceived lung cancer stigma can lead to depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, guilt, shame, blame, poor social identity, and reduced social support. A recent study indicated that lung cancer stigma might be behind the low lung cancer screening rates among high-risk smokers.

The study found that integrating stigma tools into practice may determine potential stigma-related distress. Lisa Maggio, PhD, RN, MSN, OCN®, NCTTP, presented the results in her presentation “Lung Cancer Stigma, Social Support, and Psychosocial Distress” as part of the e-poster sessions on November 2 and 3 during the 2018 JADPRO Live ( conference in Hollywood, FL.

Maggio explored the use of the Lung Cancer Stigma Scale (LuCaSS) in a cross-sectional, observational study of 104 patients aged 18–85 years with lung cancer who were recruited from National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers.

The LuCaSS scale was deemed a reliable and valid instrument in measuring perceived lung cancer stigma (alpha = 0.89). Social constraints, self-esteem, and smoking significantly contributed to the prediction of stigma, controlling for socioeconomic status. Those with greater social constraints, lower self-esteem, and previous history of smoking scored higher for stigma. Social support appeared to have an impact on depression, but not anxiety.

“Emphasizing the need for social support and implementing more advocacy efforts may also help minimize the effects of stigma and depression,” Maggio noted. “Incorporate strategies to help patients and families cope with reactions to feeling stigmatized and resources available. Advocate for patients and families and encourage open dialogue about feelings and related emotions to guilt, blame, and shame associated with being stigmatized.”

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