In a five-part series, the Herald investigates controversies in cancer testing and treatment and reports on the moving stories of people afflicted with cancer. In the third part of the series, Herald health reporter Martin Johnston turns his attention to lung cancer.

Lung cancer is seen as the poor-relation cancer, possibly because of its strong relationship with smoking.

The Herald analysed Charities Register financial data and found no charities specifically focused on lung cancer. But that is set to change with the launch of the Lung Foundation.

The new charity aims to raise awareness of lung cancer and other lung diseases and hopes that this will help reduce the annual death toll of more than 1600 from lung cancer, our biggest cancer killer.

READ MORE

Advertisement

Cancer: Are poor being sent home to die?

Lung cancer treatment 'frustrating'

Richard's story: Trial offers light in tunnel

John's story: Tackling 'offensive' stigma of disease

Chris Atkinson: Lung cancer lacks profile of other cancers

"We will have a main emphasis on lung cancer," said foundation chief executive Philip Hope. "For many lung cancer patients, the first question is 'Did you smoke?' There is a stigma attached to lung cancer that there isn't with other cancers and that's something the Lung Foundation is going to put a lot of awareness on."

The Herald's check of 2013/14 financial returns found no charity income specifically for lung cancer, yet charities related to breast cancer (the cause of around 600 deaths a year) reported gross income of $6.9 million and those for lymphatic and blood cancers (around 930 deaths) received $6.2 million.

The Cancer Society, New Zealand's largest group of cancer charities, works in the lung cancer area but they do not break down their spending by cancer type, said Auckland Division chief executive John Loof.

Mr Hope said the society was good at supporting people once diagnosed with lung cancer, but he questioned the amount of public information and awareness-raising of lung disease symptoms.

"We have many people turning up to the A&E coughing up blood and they have well-advanced lung disease. Had they been engaged with a campaign to empower them around keeping themselves healthy they may have taken themselves to the GP much, much earlier."

He cited a 2013 survey which found that only 27 per cent of New Zealanders claimed high knowledge of lung cancer, in contrast to 35 to 50 per cent saying the same of melanoma, breast and prostate cancer - findings which he believes reflect the activities of cancer-specific charities.

The Series

Yesterday:

Bowel Cancer

Today:

Lung Cancer

Thursday:

Melanoma

Friday:

Prostate Cancer