Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the United States, killing more people each year than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. It’s not just lung cancer, though – smoking puts you at risk for many other cancers: oral, kidney, pancreatic and stomach, to name a few.

Smoking cessation is particularly important for cancer survivors, whether they are currently undergoing treatment or have already finished. The National Cancer Institute has confirmed that cigarette smoking has a profound adverse impact on health outcomes in cancer patients.

“Because smoking impairs circulation, cardiovascular health and the immune system, it can make getting through cancer treatment more difficult,” said Amy Bush, nurse practitioner and tobacco cessation counselor at Novant Health Multidisciplinary Cancer Clinic . “Smoking can change the way chemotherapy drugs are processed, making them less effective. Radiation therapy complications may be heightened in patients who smoke, and wound healing may be impaired after surgery.”

The Multidisciplinary Cancer Clinic at Novant Health aims to not only help patients quit, but to educate them on the health benefits of quitting through a new smoking cessation program offered to cancer patients and survivors.

For cancer patients, quitting smoking at the time of diagnosis may reduce the risk of death by 30 to 40 percent. For those having surgery, chemotherapy or other treatments, quitting smoking helps improve the body’s ability to heal and respond to therapy. Moreover, quitting smoking may lower the risk of the cancer returning, from dying of the cancer, of a second cancer developing and of dying from other causes.

“During our counseling sessions, tobacco cessation counselors provide strategies for quitting tobacco, recommend pharmacologic therapy, and provide follow ups with face-to-face and telephone counseling,” Bush said. “There is a pathway to becoming smoke free. It may not be easy, but it is worth the effort.”

Bush said having a quit plan will make success more likely, but that does not mean it will come easy. “You learn something with each quit attempt, and you will eventually become smoke-free. It takes an average of six quit attempts to become smoke-free,” she said.

There are many benefits to becoming tobacco-free, including:

  • A decreased risk of lung and other cancers.
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • A decreased risk of developing lung disease.
  • Improved health and quality of life with both immediate and long-term benefits.

Bush’s advice to her patients? “It’s never too late to quit.”