Professor Christine Jenkins presents at annual Dare Shott Memorial Lecture

29 Oct 2018

Jessica Willard – The Examiner, Launceston

 

This was the message of Professor Christine Jenkins at Tuesday’s 20th annual Dare Shott Memorial Lecture, held at Peppers Silo Hotel.

The head of the respiratory group at the George Institute for Global Health, Professor Jenkins is one of Australia’s leading female respiratory physicians.

At Tuesday’s lecture, hosted by the Clifford Craig Foundation, she presented on the current global burden of chronic lung diseases, including lung cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

With one in four Australians currently living with a chronic respiratory disease, Professor Jenkins said the lecture was an opportunity for people representing a wide cross-section of the community to engage in a “largely ignored” area of health.

“Unquestionably people take their lung health for granted,” she said.

“For some reason, other diseases and organs seem to be of much greater importance to people than their lungs, and we have very good evidence supporting this.”

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of death by cancer in Australia.

However, Professor Jenkins said it often “flew under the radar” because people were ashamed of their diagnosis.

“There is a huge stigma attached to respiratory disease, and that stigma is in part a consequence to very successful health campaigns against smoking,” she said.

“We seem to have, by having really driven the stop smoking message so hard and so effectively, convinced people that if you don’t smoke you won’t get lung disease.

“The very sad knock-on consequence of that is when people do have lung disease, particularly lung cancer, they receive very little sympathy.

“Many people with lung cancer say the very first question they get is – ‘well, you must have smoked’.

“As if it is an excuse for them to then withdraw their support or sympathy.

“It is not like saying I have breast cancer, I’ve got leukemia.

“It can be really hard for people to come out say – ‘I have lung cancer’.”

With research interests in the clinical management of airway diseased and patient-reported outcomes in response to therapeutic interventions, Professor Jenkins said reversing the stigmas associated with chronic lung diseases were key to achieving better outcomes.

“To turn around the stigma is a gradual process, it won’t happen overnight, but I think making people aware of it will go a long way.

“We need to recognise that this is a significant burden on our community.”