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Canadians Urged to Stop Asking the Wrong Question About Lung Cancer

New campaign reveals ways that stigma slows progress against Canada’s #1 cancer killer

Toronto, Ontario – September 30 – The Lung Health Foundation and Lung Cancer Canada have joined forces to highlight the hurtful and deadly effects of lung cancer stigma through Stop Asking the Wrong Question, a powerful new awareness campaign launched Canada-wide today.

That “wrong question” refers to the phenomenon wherein people sharing news of their lung cancer diagnosis are immediately probed on their smoking history – leaving them fighting stigma before they are offered support or compassion, even from loved ones. In a disease with a mere 19% five-year survival rate, that compassion is crucial to helping patients cope.

“The first thing they would ask is, ’Have you ever smoked, were you around a lot of second hand smoke?’ Not many people first asked how are you doing, how are you feeling, is everything okay,” recalls Joseph Neale, recording artist and lung cancer advocate, in his heartfelt campaign video. Diagnosed at just 20-years-old, he experienced lung cancer stigma from the very moment his journey began with lung cancer.

Joseph is among the 18 Canadians sharing their personal stories and experiences with lung cancer stigma on There, new patient and caregiver stories will be unlocked every week through mid-November, and visitors can be a part of the solution through donations to a new joint lung cancer research fund. Canadians are being asked to follow along and share their own experiences using hash tag #thewrongquestion, too.

“We are shifting the conversation from blame and shame to care and compassion,” says George Habib, President and CEO of the Lung Health Foundation. “We shouldn’t be asking lung cancer patients or their loved ones if they smoked. It’s the wrong question, and the answer doesn’t matter. A person with lung cancer deserves support, regardless of whether they smoked or not. The wrong question forces many to go through cancer alone out of fear of judgment and feeling less worthy of help. To a person newly diagnosed with lung cancer, the right question is simply, ‘How can I be there for you?’”

In addition to being hurtful to the nearly 30,000 Canadians diagnosed each year, the myth that lung cancer is solely a “smoker’s cancer” creates a stigma that stalls funding for everything from research to support programs. Despite being the largest cause of cancer death in Canada, lung cancer is the least funded.

To fill these gaps, the Lung Health Foundation and Lung Cancer Canada have released a new policy report, Start Asking the Right Questions About Lung Cancer: A Roadmap for Lasting Change. Available on, the report demonstrates the devastating impact of lung cancer stigma, and offers innovative solutions to some of the top challenges that stand in the way of lung cancer progress.

“Through this campaign, we are highlighting the hard questions we should be asking. Questions about lack of funding, limited screening, medication affordability, innovative treatment access, and the availability of programs that support those in the fight for life,” says Shem Singh, Executive Director, Lung Cancer Canada.

Stop Asking the Wrong Question runs until November 20.

About the Lung Health Foundation

The Lung Health Foundation is the leading health charity dedicated to improving lung health through a uniquely integrated approach that identifies gaps and fills them through investments in ground-breaking research and urgently needed programs and supports; policy and practice change; and promoting awareness about lung health issues affecting all Canadians.

About Lung Cancer Canada

Lung Cancer Canada is a national charitable organization that serves as Canada’s leading resource for lung cancer education, patient support, research and advocacy. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Lung Cancer Canada has a wide reach that includes both regional and pan-Canadian initiatives. Lung Cancer Canada is a member of the Global Lung Cancer Coalition and is the only organization in Canada focused exclusively on lung cancer.

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