updated 2/14/2011 2:45:58 AM ET 2011-02-14T07:45:58

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 11, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Patients with lung cancer, whether they smoke or not, feel stigmatized because their disease is strongly associated with smoking, according to a study released today at the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) 11th National Conference on Cancer Nursing Research. Oncology nurse researcher Janine K. Cataldo, PhD, RN, from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) presented the findings.

The purpose of the study was to develop a valid and reliable measure of lung cancer stigma and to compare the relationships of lung cancer stigma to depression and quality of life in smokers and non-smokers. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women.

One hundred eighty-nine study participants with a lung cancer diagnosis completed online questionnaires. They ranged in age from 20–88 years (mean age = 55 years), 56% were men, 73.8% were partnered, and 14% lived alone. The majority of the participants were Caucasian (85%). Eighty percent of the sample were smokers (current and ex- smokers). Fifty-five percent of the sample met the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale criteria for depression. No significant differences in demographic measures between smokers and non-smokers was observed.

In a factor analysis of the Lung Cancer Stigma Scale four factors emerged. The four subscales include stigma/shame, social isolation, discrimination, and smoking. Lung cancer stigma had a strong positive association with depression in smokers and non-smokers, and a strong negative association with quality of life in smokers and non-smokers

"Perceived lung cancer stigma can be described as the person's awareness of their lung cancer as it relates to social disqualification, limitations in opportunities, and negative changes in social identity," Cataldo said. "Perceived stigma can lead to several negative outcomes including increased levels of psychosocial symptoms and increased severity of physical symptoms."

Smokers and non-smokers experience lung cancer stigma, and as a result they also experience more depression and a diminished quality of life. All patients with lung cancer can benefit from an effective lung cancer stigma intervention.

Study funded by UCSF Academic Senate and National Institute of Nursing Research P30.

ONS is a professional organization of more than 35,000 registered nurses and other healthcare professionals committed to excellence in oncology nursing and to leading the transformation of cancer care by initiating and actively supporting educational, legislative, and public awareness efforts to improve the care of people with cancer. ONS provides nurses and healthcare professionals with access to the highest quality educational programs, cancer care resources, research opportunities, and networks for peer support. Learn more at www.ons.org .

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