Please Don’t Tell My Family

Check this out. What you will see is an Oncologist’s recounting of the sad story of a 46-year old, non-smoking, active runner, wife and mother. When presented with the diagnosis of lung cancer, she requested that the doctor not tell her family because the “stigma” of lung cancer was something that she did not want to face. She held to her silence through her death, with her obituary announcing that she had died of breast cancer.  

This piece frankly left me scratching my head. I had never thought of lung cancer as having a stigma. Which got me to thinking. Where does this stigma come from? What other diseases have stigmas? How does all this work?

Okay, I get STD’s carrying a stigma, but what else and why?  

Bottom Line. At a very practical level, I am guessing that a disease carrying a stigma can have profound and unfortunate consequences. For diseases like Type II Diabetes (Only overweight people get that, right? It’s their fault!!!), for example, one of the consequences might well be non-adherence with a treatment regimen. 

I’ve never thought much about the PR challenges that individual diseases have or considered what are the consequences of these problems and what if anything can and should be done to assuage problems in this area.

Maybe I should think some more about that!  Maybe you should too!!!

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