Have lung cancer? Quitting smoking can help improve treatment outcomes.
Cancer or not, now is the time all tobacco users should quit
A lung cancer diagnosis is not an excuse to continue smoking.
However, it happens all the time, says Dr. M. Douglas Mullins, pulmonologist with Southeast Lung Associates and member of the thoracic cancer clinical effectiveness team at the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion.
Many tobacco users who’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer believe there is no longer any reason to quit. This isn’t true. There are many benefits to quitting.
“Patients who continue to smoke face a higher risk of recurrent or new lung cancers,” Dr. Mullins says. “Cigarette smoking also increases resistance to chemotherapeutic agents and increases surgical risk for those who undergo lung cancer resection.”
Other benefits of quitting smoking include:
- Reduces lung inflammation that can lead to increased cancer growth
- May decrease the severity of side effects, making treatment easier
- Lessens the risk of infection and may speed healing after surgery
- Improves immune system health, which is important in disease control
- Lowers blood pressure and decreases heart rate
- Decreases the risk of secondary cancers and other conditions linked to tobacco use
- May improve your senses of smell and taste and improve appetite
How do I quit?
Whether you have a cancer diagnosis or not, now is the time to stop smoking. One way to do so is through smoking cessation. St. Joseph’s/Candler offers a Tobacco Cessation Program. This comprehensive program gives you the support and resources needed to help you quit for good.
“Smoking cessation improves response to chemotherapy, improves respiratory function and even stimulates improved appetite and quality of life,” Dr. Mullins says.
In general, Dr. Mullins stresses the importance of all smokers to quit.
“Picking up a cigarette is like using up your life debit card. Every time a smoker picks up a cigarette, they are making a withdrawal of time from their lives,” Dr. Mullins says. “For people who have smoked there is good news. The moment you stop smoking your lungs begin to heal and stop their inexorable decline into emphysema. Quit while you are ahead!”
It’s also important to not get discouraged if you fail when attempting to quit smoking. Those who have successfully stopped smoking have previously failed an average of seven times, Dr. Mullins says.
“Forgive yourself and keep trying,” he advises.