You have cancer.
Three small words that impact a person in a very big way. For advanced lung cancer patients, the emotional response to a diagnosis can be especially complex as lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths – each year, more people in the U.S. die of lung cancer than any other type of cancer. For those newly diagnosed with lung cancer, feelings of hopelessness and defeat can paralyze their decision-making and may contribute to their hesitancy to seek treatment.
That’s why Merck has teamed up with GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer on a new campaign, Worth the Fight: Taking on Lung Cancer, to help empower people with advanced lung cancer and their loved ones to take an active role in their cancer care and talk to their healthcare team to understand treatment options that might be right for them.
This campaign is based on findings from a recent survey of over 500 U.S. patients, caregivers and healthcare providers to better understand the mindset and challenges people impacted by advanced lung cancer face around the time of diagnosis. Despite incredible progress made against lung cancer over the past few decades, the survey revealed that most people diagnosed with advanced lung cancer still struggle with navigating their disease. The survey also revealed a need for more effective communications between a patient, their caregiver, and healthcare team and guidance around identifying helpful resources at diagnosis to help patients determine next steps, including whether they and their loved ones think it’s worth the fight to take on lung cancer.
In fact, when first diagnosed, most patients (57%) think nothing can be done to treat their disease. Patients may feel scared (56%), have trouble making sense of what their doctor says (76%) or feel overwhelmed (41%). Upon learning of their diagnosis, 72% of patients believe they may have brought the disease on themselves. While many believe smoking is the sole cause of lung cancer, nearly anyone can be diagnosed with this life-threatening disease. The unspoken implication that a person is responsible for bringing lung cancer upon himself or herself can prompt feelings of hurt and shame. Stigma can cause people to avoid seeking treatment and is linked to disease-related distress and poor health outcomes, the American Lung Association warns.
After Jodi Parker was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in 2013, her doctors wanted her to start treatment immediately, but she wasn’t convinced.
For Parker, it came down to protecting the time she had left.
“I’d planned on living out the rest of my life the best way I could and making the most out of the time I had left. Fortunately, a well-timed call from a good friend persuaded me that I needed to reconsider. Seven years, one wedding and three grandchildren later, my cancer has returned. But it’s never been clearer that it’s worth the fight.”
A treatment decision should be based on an informed discussion between a patient, their caregivers and healthcare team. But oftentimes patients are not sure how to weigh the risks and benefits of various treatment options, even after speaking with their oncologist. When first diagnosed, 79% of patients said their doctor clearly explained the value of being treated for advanced lung cancer, but more than half (56%) of patients doubted treatment would make a difference in their outcome. In addition, more than a third of patients (33%) and caregivers (39%) said they did not know enough about the disease to make informed decisions. These factors may lead patients to leave the ultimate treatment decision up to their healthcare providers.
“Lung cancer is most often diagnosed at an advanced stage when the prognosis is poor, making it critically important for patients and their loved ones to have an open and honest conversation about what treatment options might be right for them at the time of diagnosis,” said Dr. Jacob Sands, thoracic medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Worth the Fight: Taking on Lung Cancer is designed to help people like Parker with advanced lung cancer take an active role in getting the care they need.
“I know now that an advanced lung cancer diagnosis does not have to mean giving up. Ask your oncologist questions. Learn as much as you can. Take control of your care,” said Parker.
Visit www.fightlungcancer.com to download a discussion guide to help you and your loved ones have an informed conversation with your doctor about treatment options and additional support resources.