Lung cancer patients are not getting the care they deserve because the illness has the stigma of being seen as a "smokers' disease", campaigners said today.

Cancer charities said more than 38,000 people died from lung cancer each year in the UK - more than from leukaemia, breast and prostate cancer put together.

Despite this, lung cancer received only 4% of the national cancer research budget.

Patients with the disease were also often denied the best care and treatment and received less information, the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and Macmillan Cancer Relief said.

The charities said the "smokers' disease" reputation remained a major barrier to patients getting the support and information they needed, adding that one in 10 lung cancer cases was diagnosed in a person who had never smoked.

They have launched a patients' charter challenging the government to address inadequacies in the care of lung cancer patients by setting out minimum standards for their treatment.

Terry Kavanagh, a recovering lung cancer patient and a trustee of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: "Few lung cancer patients are able to fight for their rights, and few have confidence they will receive the support and treatment they need.

"The goal of the charter is to mobilise government, policy makers and health professionals to acknowledge the profound impact of lung cancer and ensure the provision of effective resources and support for patients and our families.

"A diagnosis of lung cancer is devastating enough without the added pressure of lack of access to treatment."

Mike Unger, the foundation's chief executive, said cancer inequalities remained a major problem for those most in need of help.

"Lung cancer has not received the attention afforded to other major cancers," he said. "Greater attention needs to be given to the emotional and practical difficulties experienced by lung cancer patients and their carers.

"Driving awareness of the devastating impact of lung cancer has to be a top government priority."

Peter Cardy, the chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Relief, said lung cancer had been the "poor relation" for too long.

"We must now focus attention on the UK's biggest cancer killer, and so improve the quality of life for lung cancer patients," he added.



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