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Cancer Patients, Family Continue Smoking After Diagnosis

Hand holding cigarette (NIMH)

(National Institute of Mental Health)

A study by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina finds many patients and their care givers continue smoking even after being told they have cancer. The results of the research by Kathryn Weaver and colleagues appear in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (paid subscription required).

Weaver’s team investigated behaviors of 742 lung and colorectal cancer patients and their care givers in databases compiled from previous Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance (CanCORS) and CanCORS Caregiver studies. Two-thirds (67%) of the cancer patients in the sample were male, but nearly eight in 10 (79%) of the care givers were female. More than half (58%) of the care givers were spouses of the patients.

Of the patients, 18 percent of those with lung cancer continued to smoke after their diagnosis, while 12 percent of colorectal cancer patients continued smoking. Among care givers, even higher proportions continued to smoke: 25 percent for lung cancer and 20 percent for colorectal cancer.

Weaver notes that despite patients and care givers acknowledging the need to quit smoking, the disease creates a stressful period for everyone involved and the added stress may make it a difficult time to quit. “Physicians need to be aware that a substantial number of their patients do continue to smoke after receiving a cancer diagnosis,” says Weaver, “but they should be offered every encouragement and resource to quit.”

Read more: Panel: Make Cigarettes Non-Addictive

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