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Smokers Can't Quit Even During Cancer Treatment

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, January 21, 2009 6:04 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Cancer, FDA and Prescrition Drugs, Smoking, Lung Disease, Chemotherapy

This study finds about 44 percent of smokers still smoke during treatment  for cancer.



IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / quit smoking / author: RobHadfield


There is no question that smoking is an environmental risk factor for cancer. Smoking can also interfere with some cancer treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. 

Now a new study finds that despite that, patients often have difficulty quitting during cancer treatment. A West Virginia University team of researchers found that fewer than half of the smokers surveyed – 44 percent – quit during cancer treatment. 

And only 62 percent of patients diagnosed with cancer had received any advice about stopping smoking from their healthcare providers.

“We were surprised to learn that doctors and nurses across the board were not counseling cancer patients about the advisability of quitting,” said Jame Abraham, M.D., section chief of hematology/oncology at West Virginia University’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, the study’s lead author said in a statement. 

“Clearly there is a need for intervention programs to help cancer patients quit the tobacco habit.”

Researchers looked at data from a 1,000 member pool of randomly selected cancer patients. The top three cancers represented in the study were breast, skin and prostate cancers, followed by head and neck cancers, lung cancers and lymphomas.

They had all been diagnosed between 2003 and 2007.  Altogether 166 responses were analyzed and respondents reported that most had attended high school, and more than a quarter had attended or graduated from college.

About 20 percent of the patients being treated for cancer were smokers at the time of the cancer diagnosis.  The numbers of men and women were evenly divided.

Those who quit smoking benefitted from individual counseling or group therapy with other cancer patients.  Survey participants said they had little desire to enter into groups that involved their friends or family.

Those who had never smoked were more likely to be better educated than those who were current or former smokers.

Smoking is not only linked to lung cancer, but also bladder, kidney esophagus, pancreas and head and neck cancer.

Bottom line- smokers who are being treated for cancer who do not quit are more likely to die of cancer, say the authors. Intervention programs are needed and should be encouraged by health care providers to help smokers stop.

The study is published in the Journal of Oncology Practices.  #

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