Why You Need to Quit Smoking After a Lung Cancer Diagnosis

How quitting tobacco can benefit your lung cancer treatment and help you live longer.

Why You Need to Quit Smoking After a Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Odds are, you’re aware that cigarette smoking is a big-time contributor to lung cancer. It’s the number one risk factor for developing the disease, and is associated with up to 90 percent of American lung cancer deaths.

You may not know this: After being diagnosed, kicking the habit is one of the best things you can do. Compared to lung cancer patients who smoke, research suggests that quitters may improve their quality of life, respond better to treatment, and live longer. Despite these benefits, however, most people with lung cancer continue to light up.

Here’s how ditching cigarettes can better your health, and why lung cancer patients may find it particularly difficult. Plus, learn how healthcare providers can best help you quit for good.

The health perks of going smoke-free
For those with lung cancer, one of the earliest and biggest advantages of smoking cessation is often an enhanced quality of life. They may breathe easier, have more energy and feel happier after they stop smoking. Quitting is also linked to increased appetite, better sleep and less pain. It may even improve other medical conditions that affect your overall health, such as heart disease or diabetes.

Kicking cigarettes can boost the effectiveness of treatment, too. Non-smoking lung cancer patients often respond better to radiation and chemotherapy, and experience fewer side effects than those who light up. There’s a lower risk of post-surgical complications, and patients may recover faster from treatment overall.

That’s not all. Compared to lung cancer patients who still smoke, quitters have a lower risk of cancer recurrence. Plus, they’re less likely to develop a second cancer, either at the same time or down the line.

Perhaps most significantly, dropping cigarettes after diagnosis may prolong life. One 2010 review of 10 studies found participants who quit had much higher five-year survival rates than those who didn’t.

Why quitting is difficult, even after diagnosis
Despite the numerous benefits, many lung cancer patients keep smoking, for several reasons. They may not know the perks of quitting, or believe it’s too late—their lungs are already damaged. Perhaps they blame themselves for developing cancer, or they’re self-conscious about discussing their habit with a healthcare provider.

Smoking is an addiction, too, of course, and some smokers feel they should enjoy cigarettes while they have time. Others depend on tobacco to cope with the stress of lung cancer diagnosis. Many have tried to quit before—without success. Fortunately, you can better your odds of kicking the habit with the help of your cancer care team.

How your healthcare provider can help
To begin, start a frank discussion with your HCP about your desire to quit. Be candid about your tobacco use, and ask questions, no matter how minor. Your HCP can guide you to an effective smoking cessation method, suggest lifestyle changes to help you succeed, and recommend resources for support along the way. They can also advise you on handling secondhand smoke at home; studies suggest those in smoke-free homes quit more successfully.

If your healthcare provider seems hesitant to help, or isn’t meeting your needs? Speak with another member of your team. Because no matter your health situation, it’s never too late to quit smoking.

Medically reviewed in July 2019


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