I have a request for Lung Cancer Awareness Month, which was November: Please don’t ask us if we smoked.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer, and it is the second leading cause of death for women, heart disease being No. 1.

More than 65 percent of all people newly diagnosed with lung cancer never smoked or those who stopped decades ago.

Patients struggle with the stigma associated with this disease, and this stigma is reinforced by the dreaded question everyone asks a lung cancer patient, “Did you smoke?”

No one will ever ask a breast, prostrate, colon, kidney, bladder, throat, pancreatic or cervical cancer patient if they smoke, but smoking can cause all of these cancers.

No one will ask a lung cancer patient, “Have you checked your home for radon?” yet radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.


No one will even think that the patient may have a mutated gene that might have caused their disease.

We all dread the “Did you smoke?” question, which enforces the stigma that we caused our disease. It makes the patient feel ashamed and guilty and even in some cases unworthy of receiving treatment to save or extend their lives.

I encourage people to not ask lung cancer patients and survivors if they smoked. Not asking that dreaded question will help eliminate the stigma associated with lung cancer.

Deb Violette

Survivor and advocate

National Lung Cancer Partnership

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