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Cancer survivors who smoke may need more help to quit

October 20, 2009 |  3:41 pm

Cancer survivors are often inspired to live more healthfully, but not all do. Notwithstanding a desire to quit cigarettes, some continue to smoke despite knowing the health consequences.

But consider this: In a study of cancer survivors, more than a quarter who smoke didn't receive any advice about quitting from their healthcare provider.

Kjtm4onc This and other revelations about cancer survivors and smoking are in a paper published recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Researchers examined evaluations from 1,825 men and women, average age 67, who took part in the 2005 National Health Interview Survey, an annual U.S. health survey. All the participants had been diagnosed with cancer at least one year prior, and they reported on their current smoking patterns.

Almost 18% said they were current smokers. Various forms of cancers had different smoking rates: Highest were cervical and uterine; lowest were female breast cancer and prostate.

A vast majority of all study participants -- 95% -- said they had visited their healthcare provider in the last year, but less than half (41%) said they had been asked about their smoking habits. In that group, more than two-thirds said their provider already knew their smoking status. About 72% of current smokers who had seen a healthcare provider said they were advised to quit smoking.

Most of the current smokers -- almost two-thirds -- said they wanted to quit smoking, with more than a third trying to quit in the last year. Those who were more likely to have received advice about quitting had related medical conditions, high stress, no medical insurance or at least a pack-a-day habit.

"While smoking cessation is difficult, it can play an important role in increasing cancer survivors' quality of life," said Elliot Coups, lead author and a participant in the Fox Chase Keystone Program in Cancer Risk and Prevention. "Time and again, studies have shown that people really do listen to what is said at the doctor's office in regards to smoking, so healthcare providers need to take advantage of this teachable moment."

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: M. Spencer Green / AP