By Cliff Douglas, JD
Stopping smoking is hard. For many smokers, it may take multiple tries to break the addiction for good. And often, getting support from friends, family, and experts is what smokers need to make the life-saving choice to quit.
That’s why the American Cancer Society gives extra inspiration to smokers nationwide each year through its Great American Smokeout – a day when smokers are encouraged to quit for the day and make a plan to quit for good.
Quitting even for one day is an important step towards a smoke-free life, but even that can prove difficult.
As someone who has been in the fight against tobacco for more than 25 years, I have seen just how challenging it can be for smokers to quit. I have helped pass laws making airplanes smoke-free, worked to defend local smoke-free restaurant and workplace laws, and consulted to United States government leaders about what more we as a nation can do to put an end to the harms of tobacco use.
But even with all of the progress we have made, for those who smoke, quitting is still a hard-fought battle to win. Some people are able to quit on their own, without the help of others or the use of medicines.… Continue reading →
By J. Lee Westmaas, PhD
While the American Cancer Society and other organizations traditionally focus on getting smokers to quit before they develop cancer, there’s a group of smokers who are especially susceptible to the negative effects of smoking. They are cancer survivors – some of whom have been diagnosed with a smoking-related cancer. It’s easy to say, “If you get cancer, then you should know better and quit, and stay quit,” but that’s not the whole story.
Getting a cancer diagnosis does motivate some smokers to quit. Using data from the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study-II, we found that about 1 out of 3 smokers quit smoking when they were diagnosed with cancer. That compares with only 1 out of 5 smokers who quit but were not diagnosed with cancer during the same time periods studied.
Even smokers whose cancer was not strongly linked to smoking (like breast cancer) quit at higher rates than undiagnosed smokers. These results were not caused by the smokers being unable to smoke due to their illness; those people were excluded from the study.
Smoking: Risky for patients and survivors
Quitting is particularly important for cancer patients and survivors because smoking can increase the likelihood of a recurrence, delay wound healing, and make cancer treatments less effective.… Continue reading →
By Ted Gansler, MD, MBA, MPH
Can breath tests (like those used to check whether drivers have been drinking alcohol) be used for lung cancer screening? Or, is this (pardon the pun) just a lot of “hot air?” Although breath tests for lung cancer are “not ready for prime time,” there has been some encouraging research.
There are 3 main ways to fight cancer – prevention, screening, and treatment. Although lung cancer remains the leading cause of death from cancer worldwide and in the United States, researchers are making progress against this disease on all 3 fronts.
Over nearly a half century, researchers tried several tests for lung cancer screening, none of which were accurate enough for widespread use. Because of research results released in 2010, the American Cancer Society and several other organizations now recommend that people at high risk for lung cancer (certain groups of current and former smokers) ask their doctor about CT scans for lung cancer screening.
On average, people in these high risk groups who have this test every year according to the ACS guidelines can reduce their risk of dying from lung cancer by about 20%. This can save a lot of lives and prevent a lot of suffering, so if you are a current or former smoker, you should read more about our lung cancer screening recommendations.… Continue reading →
By J. Lee Westmaas, PhD
Some of us, at some point in time, have felt judged negatively by others or discriminated against because of some personal characteristic or behavior. Researchers refer to this as feeling stigmatized, and lung cancer patients report feeling this way more than patients with other types of cancers.
Many individuals with lung cancer fear that others will react to their diagnosis with blame, exclusion, rejection and/or discrimination. Many actually experience this as well. A primary reason is that smoking is so strongly linked to lung cancer.
Blaming the victim
Lung cancer was one of the first diseases to be identified as caused by smoking. Smoking rates have decreased dramatically since the 1960s due to laws to restrict smoking, greater publicity on the many harms of smoking, and a change in public attitudes toward smoking. [more]
A result of these changes may be a “blame-the-victim” attitude toward someone who gets lung cancer. In one study, individuals with lung cancer (92% of whom were smokers) more often agreed with the statement “my behavior contributed to my cancer” compared to people with breast and prostate cancer, which are less strongly linked with smoking. Lung cancer patients were also more likely to agree with the statements:
- “I am ashamed I got my type of cancer,”
- “My family feels ashamed of my type of cancer,” and
- “I am embarrassed to tell people my type of cancer,”
when compared to breast and prostate cancer patients.… Continue reading →
By Otis W. Brawley, MD, FACP
This week the American Cancer Society announces its lung cancer screening guidelines. In short, we recommend that health care professionals with access to high-quality lung cancer screening and treatment centers should discuss screening with healthy patients aged 55 years to 74 years who have at least a 30-year history of pack-a-day cigarette smoking and who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. The health care professional and patient should discuss all the known benefits and known harms associated with lung cancer screening.
These guidelines were developed after a meticulous process in which a group of cancer screening and treatment experts reviewed all the major lung cancer screening studies that have been published over the past several decades. [more]
Benefits vs. harm
The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), published in 2011, heavily influences this recommendation. The NLST is a well-designed clinical trial. It studied 53,454 men and women in good health, aged 55 and over and at high risk of lung cancer because of their smoking history. The study assigned half of them to the test group of low-dose spiral CT scan, and half of them to a control group that received the standard single view chest X-ray.… Continue reading →