Does Smoking Cessation Affect Lung Cancer?
By Rachel Ernst |
Smoking cessation is not an easy journey, especially for lung cancer patients. Continuing smoking, however, not only hinders the healing process but increases the risk of disease recurrence and the development of secondary cancers. Through effective coping strategies, smoking cessation can be achieved, allowing lung cancer patients to breath easier and live longer.
Why is Smoking Cessation Important in Lung Cancer?
You might know that smoking is a major concern when it comes to the development of lung cancer and other diseases. A significant percentage–between 80% to 90%–of lung cancer-related deaths in the United States are directly linked to smoking. Despite the risks, nicotine addiction, situational stressors, and other factors make smoking cessation difficult. Even after a lung cancer diagnosis, at least one-third of patients still continue to smoke.
Smoking cessation, or quitting smoking, offers more significant benefits in the long run than the temporary relief a cigarette can provide. On average, patients who continue smoking after an early-stage cancer diagnosis experience an increase in short-term effects of smoking and a decrease in treatment response and survival time. Although not easy, opting to quit smoking after a cancer diagnosis can make a significant impact on your health. Fortunately, there are many resources and strategies available to aid you.
Benefits of Smoking Cessation for Lung Cancer Patients
Smoking cessation after a lung cancer diagnosis is associated with multiple benefits, all of which contribute to improved overall health. The general condition of the mind and body, or overall health, can determine your ability to manage symptoms lung cancer causes and recover from certain treatments, such as surgery or radiation therapy. In some cases, patients who smoke are not in good health to undergo treatments.
Your quality of life, including physical and emotional well-being, will improve with smoking cessation. Tobacco smoking with cancer is directly correlated with reduced well-being in patients due to compromised lung function, reduced treatment effectiveness, and increased treatment-related complications.
The risks of smoking cigarettes are not confined to the lungs; due to the large amount of cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco, lung cancer patients who continue to smoke risk developing diseases in other areas, including cancers of the mesothelium, mouth and throat, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, pancreas, larynx, trachea, and others. When you quit smoking, your chances of developing other diseases and cancers decrease significantly.
Effective Strategies for Quitting Smoking
For thousands of patients, the journey to smoking cessation begins after a lung cancer diagnosis. Nicotine addiction is a significantly challenging physical and psychological dependency to beat. These strategies can help aid lung cancer patients in attempting to quit smoking:
- Stress Management: Addressing psychological distress improves mood management and identifies effective coping strategies. Patients can seek help with managing distress through professional counseling and evidence-based behavioral therapies.
- Nicotine Replacement Therapies: Nicotine replacement therapies provide a structured approach to quitting smoking and may involve patches, gum, inhalers, or nasal spray to manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
- Smoke-Free Environment: Research indicates that a smoke-free home can help improve the chances of a smoker quitting when compared to a household with multiple smokers. Further, when you eliminate second-hand smoke, you can reduce health risks to non-smokers residing in your home.
- Social Support Network: Establishing a positive and strong support network can encourage long-term abstinence from smoking. Positive support from loved ones can motivate smokers and help them stay on the path to quitting.
- Digital Tools: There are several digital tools, including mobile apps and online platforms, designed to help individuals attempting to quit smoking. These digital resources provide support, guidance, information, tracking features, and other valuable assistance.
Doctors at the top lung cancer hospitals will work with you to develop personalized intensive treatment interventions that take tobacco dependence and possible withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, cravings, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating, into consideration. In certain cases, they may suggest medications that aid in smoking cessation.
How to Control Smoking Triggers
Tobacco products contain an addictive substance called nicotine. When used over time, the brain begins to depend on nicotine for dopamine production, making it challenging to quit. Someone addicted to nicotine can experience certain triggers that prompt an intense craving for a cigarette. Triggers consist of situations, emotions, or environmental cues that you may associate with smoking due to nicotine addiction. Common cigarette triggers include stress, social situations, habitual behaviors (such as after meals), seeing others smoke, or boredom.
Overcoming these triggers can help break the addiction. First, identify the triggers to understand how they connect with the urge to smoke. Once you recognize the triggers, it is easier to engage in coping mechanisms such as deep breathing or meditation. Learning to manage triggers involves using coping strategies, embracing behavioral changes, and finding healthier alternatives to deal with the triggers.
The Long-Term Impact of Smoking Cessation on Lung Health
Smoking cessation has immediate short-term effects on lung health and overall health, especially for cancer patients. Over time, the cilia, the hair-like structures in the airways responsible for clearing mucus and foreign particles, start to function effectively again, leading to improved breathing and reduced shortness of breath.
The long-term lung cancer risk after smoking cessation decreases in patients without a lung cancer diagnosis. Long-term smoking cessation also reduces the risk of developing cell mutations that lead to other diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The risk for COPD, a progressive lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, decreases with each smoke-free year.
Smoking Cessation diminishes the likelihood of recurrent infections of the respiratory system, enabling the immune system to regain strength and better defend against cancer. Additionally, other effects of smoking decrease; the risk of heart disease and stroke decreases, blood pressure stabilizes, circulation improves, and the chances of life-threatening cardiac events are minimized.
Some cancer treatments can temporarily impair cognitive function, a condition known as chemo brain. The cancer-related impairment can affect memory, attention, and processing speed but is treatable with rehabilitation. Likewise, research suggests quitting smoking can improve a negative correlation between tobacco use and cognitive function. Cancer patients who smoke may exhibit lower cognitive performance, impaired memory, and decreased overall brain health compared to non-smokers.
Embracing a Smoke-Free Future
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Chances are, you may know someone affected by it. Although smoking cessation is a big commitment, it can significantly reduce the risk of various life-threatening illnesses. Patients with lung cancer who quit smoking recover from treatment better and live longer on average. Whether you are making a personal commitment or supporting a loved one, you can safeguard your health today by living smoke-free.
With the right help, you can manage smoking cessation. Reach out today, and our patient advocate team will connect you with a network of experienced medical professionals and leading treatment centers in your area.