Combatting Stigmatization to Increase Lung Cancer Screening Access

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Lisa Carter-Bawa PhD, MPH, APRN, ANP-C, FAAN, discusses how LungTalk, a health communication and decision support tool, may spread awareness and knowledge surrounding lung cancer screening.

In a conversation with CancerNetwork®, Lisa Carter-Bawa PhD, MPH, APRN, ANP-C, FAAN, spoke about factors that may contribute to feelings of stigmatization surrounding a lung cancer diagnosis, which may impact an individual’s decision to undergo screening for potential disease.

Specifically, Carter-Bawa, director of the Cancer Prevention Precision Control Institute at the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation, detailed the stigmatization related to smoking and how public discourse in the context of lung cancer may impart feelings of shame or blame surrounding the development of one’s disease. As part of an effort to combat the stigmatization that at-risk populations may experience, she discussed the use of a digital, public-facing health communication and decision support tool named LungTalk. The tool was designed to provide an individually tailored experience that can help people understand more about lung health and lung cancer screening while encouraging shared decision-making with an informed clinician.

According to findings published in JTO Clinical Research and Reports, applying the Lung Cancer Stigma Communications Assessment Tool to LungTalk as part of a language, imagery, and context audit led to a revision of the digital tool in which potentially stigmatizing terms such as “smoker” were replaced with person-first language. Authors of the report concluded that adjusting public messaging surrounding at-risk individuals to be more empathic in conjunction with outreach and education efforts from clinicians may play a role in destigmatizing lung cancer.

Carter-Bawa also spoke about ongoing initiatives intended to address the low rates of lung cancer screening among screening-eligible African-American patients. Efforts such as community advisory councils and interactions with churches and other faith-based organizations aim to spread knowledge about lung cancer even beyond screening-eligible individuals.

“I would love for my colleagues to take away envisioning a world where stigma in lung cancer doesn't exist—that it's just a historical blip that we look back on—and that we are treating people equitably across the board,” Carter-Bawa said. “[A world where] we're using person-first language and not referring to people as smoker and nonsmoker in our scientific communication, our medical communication, or layman communications.”

Reference

Carter-Bawa L, Ostroff JS, Hoover K, Studts JL. Effective communication about lung cancer screening without iatrogenic stigma: a brief report case study using the lung cancer stigma communications assessment tool of LungTalk. JTO Clin Res Rep. 2023;4(11):100585. doi:10.1016/j.jtocrr.2023.100585

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