Doctors Skip Smoking Cessation Talk with Cancer Survivor Patients

Physicians miss opportunities to advise cancer survivor patients to quit smoking, say researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center.

In a press release announcing these findings, the authors explained that smoking is known to adversely affect survivors' quality of life, lower their projected life-spans, and increase their risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as second, unrelated, cancers.

The study, led by Elliot Coups, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, analyzed data from 1825 participants who completed the 2005 National Health Interview Survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. Participants were survivors of various cancers, including cervical, colon, breast, melanoma, uterine, and prostate cancer and nearly all reported visiting a health care provider within the previous year.

The results revealed that among the 18% of cancer survivors who reported currently smoking, nearly 65% indicated they wanted to quit smoking and 40% had tried to quit within the last year. When survivors tried to quit smoking they tended to not use evidence-based behavioral treatments or pharmocotherapies, the study also found.

The authors acknowledge the study cannot demonstrate why some survivors did not receive smoking cessation advice from their health care providers during visits, but that it should encourage health care providers to talk about smoking with their cancer survivor patients and not assume that another provider is addressing the issue.

“While smoking cessation is difficult, it can play an important role in increasing cancer survivors' quality of life,” said Dr Coups. “Time and again, studies have shown that people really do listen to what is said at the doctor's office in regards to smoking, so health care providers need to take advantage of this teachable moment.”

The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine (2009;24[suppl 2]:S480-S486).

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