Smokers with lung cancer: It’s not too late

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Smokers may develop a fatalistic attitude and assume there is little they can do to improve their chances of survival after a diagnosis of lung cancer. That would be a mistake, say researchers writing today in the British Medical Journal.

The authors of the study, from the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, analyzed 10 studies that measured the effects of quitting smoking after a diagnosis of lung cancer. They found that people who are diagnosed at an early stage can double their chances of survival over five years if they stop smoking, compared with people who continue to smoke.

The authors of the study say the findings provide grounds for healthcare professionals to offer smoking cessation treatments for lung cancer patients. But, in an editorial accompanying the paper, other experts point out that some doctors feel bad about asking people with lung cancer to quit. And, in most cases, the lung cancer is advanced and other issues take center stage, such as hospice care.

‘Perspectives differ among health-care professionals who have to advise patients with lung cancer. Some discuss smoking habits with all patients and caution against smoking. Others think it is inhuman to dwell on the matter — that it adds to feelings of guilt and takes away a life long comfort from the dying patient,’ said the authors of the editorial, Tom Treasure professor of cardiothoracic surgery, Clinical Operational Research Unit UCL, in London, and Janet Treasure, a professor of psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.

The optimal solution, they point out, is persuading people to quit before cancer develops and preventing young people from ever putting a cigarette to their lips.


— Shari Roan