3 Surprising Reasons to Quit Smoking After a Cancer Diagnosis

Quitting has many benefits in the cancer fight

3 Surprising Reasons to Quit Smoking After a Cancer Diagnosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you might think about quitting smoking and wonder, “What’s the point?” But even after diagnosis, quitting can make a big difference in your life — and improve the effectiveness of your treatment. Here are three reasons to quit:

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1. Smoking makes treatment harder

Cancer treatment is no walk in the park — chemotherapy and radiation can cause some unpleasant side effects, including fatigue, nausea, hair loss, skin problems and pain.

Research has shown that smoking makes these side effects even worse. Even six months after treatment, smokers continued to report more side effects than non-smokers. But patients who quit smoking before starting treatment reported levels of side effects similar to non-smokers.

2. Smoking makes treatment less effective

You’ve probably heard about the many ways that smoking impacts your body: It affects your circulation, your cardiovascular health, your immune system, and even your body’s ability to heal from wounds.

When you’re undergoing cancer treatment, especially if it involves surgery, smoking makes it even harder for your body to recover and increases your risk of complications.

If that weren’t enough, there’s also evidence that smoking changes the way your body processes chemotherapy drugs, making them less effective.

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RELATED: What Happens to Your Body When You Quit Smoking?

3. Smoking increases your risk of cancer recurrence 

Even if your treatment is successful, continuing to smoke increases the chances that your cancer will return.

This may seem obvious when it comes to lung cancer, but smoking causes many other types of cancer, too — including cancers of the larynx, throat, mouth, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas and more. In fact, smoking is a risk factor for virtually all cancers.

RELATED: ‘Surprising Link’: Smoking and Bladder Cancer

If at first you don’t succeed — keep trying

Maybe you’ve tried and failed to quit smoking in the past. You may think it’s something you’re simply not capable of doing. But the truth is, most people struggle to quit, especially the first time. Only 4 to 7 percent of people who try to quit smoking without assistance succeed on the first try.

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The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. There’s a wide range of options that can help, including:

  • Smoking cessation classes
  • Nicotine replacement products
  • Medication
  • Hypnosis
  • Psychotherapy
  • Acupuncture

Maybe now is the best time to give one of them a try.

Talk openly to your doctor

The first step in quitting smoking is being honest with your healthcare provider. Smoking has become less socially acceptable, and many people feel ashamed of the fact that they smoke and are reluctant to tell their doctor.

But being open with your treatment team can help you get the resources to quit for good, drastically improving your quality of life and the chances that your treatment will be successful.

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Cancer Answer Nurses

Jamie Schwachter, BSN, MSN, NP-C and Josette Snyder, RN, MSN, AOCN are Advanced Practice Nurses for Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute’s Cancer Answer Line.
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