07/08/2014 05:00 EDT | Updated 09/06/2014 05:59 EDT

Lung cancer patients underserved, group says

Canadians with lung cancer are underserved compared with those with other types of cancer, the Lung Association of Nova Scotia says.

The stigma of a disease largely associated with smoking is one of the reasons for the disparity, says the advocacy group, which aims to bridge the gap in services.

Both the Nova Scotia and Ontario lung groups are hosting meetings to hear stories from patients with lung cancer to inform how they can improve services.

"People impacted by lung cancer were underserviced," said Louis Brill, CEO and president of the Lung Association of Nova Scotia.

"Once a person becomes ill, shouldn't we support those people regardless? I don't care what the cause of the lung cancer is. Let's provide them with support."

Barbara Neiman Marcus has had treatment for two lung tumours and a third is under observation.

“When people say, 'Yes, but did you smoke?' they're blaming you. So you deserve this because you smoked cigarettes,” Neiman Marcus said.

Both Neiman Marcus and Brill point to other causes of lung cancer, such as exposure to radon gas.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
Nova Scotia has one of the highest rates of lung cancer in the country. It kills more people than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined in the province.

Brill said his association is working on an awareness campaign focused on pushing past the stigma and shaming faced by patients with lung cancer to make it one of the group’s top three priorities. The need for services include more early diagnosis, such as with chest X-rays, to better access to palliative care.