This summary is about cancer patients who smoke, why it is important to stop smoking, and ways to get help. It includes information on the following:
Smoking is the leading cause of cancer in the United States. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States. If you smoke, your risk of cancer can be up to 10 times higher than it is for a person who never smoked.
Smoking increases cancer risk by:
Your risk depends on how much and how long you have smoked.Lung cancer and other types of cancers are linked to tobacco use.
Cancer risks linked to tobacco use include the following:
See the following for more information:
Studies have found that smokers who quit are more likely to recover from cancer than are patients who continue to smoke.If you keep smoking, you may not respond well to treatment.
If you continue to smoke during cancer treatment, you may not respond to treatment as well as patients who do not smoke. Also, you may have worse side effects from treatment. For example, patients who are given radiation therapy for laryngeal cancer are less likely to get their voice back to normal if they keep smoking.
Wounds from surgery heal more slowly in patients who keep smoking. Studies have found that prostate cancer patients who keep smoking have a higher risk of the cancer coming back, and of death from prostate cancer. However, prostate cancer patients who quit smoking for 10 years or longer lower their risk of death to about the same as nonsmokers.Cancer patients who keep smoking increase their risk of having a second cancer.
You have a higher risk of a second cancer if you keep smoking, whether you have a cancer that is smoking-related or not smoking-related. The risk of a second cancer may last for up to 20 years, even if the first cancer has been treated and is in remission (signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared). Patients with oral and pharyngeal cancer who smoke have a high risk of a second cancer, but the risk is much less after 5 years of not smoking.
It is not easy to quit smoking and research has shown that people are more likely to quit if they have help. Mood changes are common in cancer patients and in people who smoke or are trying to quit smoking. Talk with your doctor if you have feelings of depression. Your doctor can offer counseling or other ways to help you quit smoking and treat depression when needed.
Not all smokers are motivated to quit. If you are not motivated to quit smoking, your doctor may be able to help you become motivated.
Your doctor or other health care professional may take the following steps to help you quit:
When you first quit smoking, it is common to start again. There will be many stressful times that will make you want to smoke. Counseling can help you find ways to handle the stress other than by smoking. It may take more than a year to quit smoking completely, even when you are motivated.You can find help online.
The following websites may be helpful:
Different ways to stop smoking work for different patients. Some smokers can quit with the help of counseling, while others may need medicines to help them quit.Nicotine replacement therapy may help you quit smoking.
When you are trying to quit smoking, nicotine replacement therapy may help you with withdrawal symptoms, such as:
Nicotine replacement products include the following:
Talk with your doctor before you start any form of treatment. Nicotine replacement products can cause problems in some people, especially:
The following drugs, which do not have nicotine in them, are used to help people quit smoking:
These medicines lessen nicotine craving and nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Fluoxetine causes an increased risk of suicide in adults younger than 25 years. In July 2009, the FDA warned that varenicline and bupropion may cause depression, suicide, and other mental health changes in patients who take them. These changes include:
These mental health changes may occur in patients with or without a history of psychiatric illness and it is not known if nicotine withdrawal is a part of this. (See the Depression and Suicide section in the PDQ summary on Pediatric Supportive Care.)
All patients taking these medicines, especially those with a history of psychiatric illness, should be followed closely by a doctor.
The FDA recommends that the important health benefits of quitting smoking be weighed against the small but serious risk of problems with the use of these drugs.
For more information about smoking in cancer care, see the following:
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This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about the risks of continued smoking in cancer patients and ways to stop. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.
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PDQ® Supportive and Palliative Care Editorial Board. PDQ Smoking in Cancer Care. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/smoking-cessation-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>. [PMID: 26389200]
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