FOR NEARLY 30 YEARS, Jamie Ostroff has worked as a tobacco control researcher. When she talks with lung cancer patients, they share the same story with her: When telling others about their diagnoses, typically the first response they would hear was, “Oh, I didn’t know that you smoked.”
“Imagine what that would feel like,” says Ostroff, a clinical health psychologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “What would it feel like to share something really difficult like that with a friend or co-worker, and their reaction was anything but, ‘I’m sorry, how can I help?’”
Those patients’ stories led Ostroff to pursue research into lung cancer stigma and how it affects patient care. Cancer Today spoke with Ostroff about the impact of stigma, and how tobacco control programs can meet their goal of decreasing tobacco use while remaining sensitive to the needs of lung cancer patients.