Liver Cancer Stigma

Living with a health condition or a disability can be a challenge because of the hardship that it imposes. In the case of liver cancer, the burden of stigma is often added. This happens when people stigmatize or discriminate against  those with a health condition or disability.

Stigma is communicated in dozens of ways, including assumptions or making inappropriate remarks. But the main result is that the condition is seen to be more important than the person.

When others place blame on you, you feel stigmatized. Someone who stigmatizes a person with liver cancer might say, “He must have been a drinker. It’s his fault that he has liver cancer.” Not only is this an insensitive thing to say, there is also a significant chance that it is incorrect.”[1] In the case of liver cancer associated with lifestyle conditions such as sexually transmitted Hepatitis C or alcohol induced cirrhosis, stigma can play a big role in the way the patient is treated by both professionals and caregivers.

The stigma of living with liver cancer can contribute to depression, defined as:

  • Sadness lasting for more than a two week period.
  • Greater irritability.
  • Changes in sleep patterns.
  • Lower energy and lack of motivation.
  • Problems with concentration.
  • Feelings of guilt.
  • Thoughts of death.

The best way to combat stigma is educating people about the condition and what to expect from it. Having accurate information will also enable cancer patients to respond to those who lack the knowledge about it.

Depression can be fought and its symptoms can be minimized by a series of actions:

  • Experiencing the five stages of grief: : denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. These stages come naturally but not always in the same order. Allowing and processing them in their own time is the best way to deal with them.
  • Accepting the support of others, especially those closest to you, will help you stop thinking about cancer all the time as well as the stigma that can occur.
  • Professional treatment can help you deal with grief and depression.

“By grieving, rallying your supports, and utilizing mental health professionals, you will find yourself healthier and happier.”[2]