Monday, January 23, 2012

Many smokers continue despite cancer diagnosis

A survey among patients that were recently diagnosed with either lung cancer or colorectal cancer revealed that a significant proportion of them continued smoking. Despite being diagnosed by a disease that is very likely to result in premature death, they were unable to give up their harmful habit. The survey results are quite surprising, as quitting smoking is paramount to recovery or coping with these forms of cancer.

Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School investigated 5338 patients freshly diagnosed with either lung cancer or colorectal cancer. They noted that 39 percent and 14 percent of them were smoking, respectively. When they re-did the survey five months later, the researchers still found 15 percent and 9 percent of the patients smoking, respectively. That means about one-third of the patients with lung cancer continued to smoke, and well over half of those with colorectal cancer.

Patient characteristics
In addition to simply counting the numbers of smoking patients, the researchers also assessed a few characteristics. They found that smokers with lung cancer tended to have healthcare insurance, lower body mass index, not a lot of emotional support from friends or family and smoked a high number of cigarettes at some point in their life. For colorectal cancer, the statistics showed a correlation with the smokers being male, being low educated, have no healthcare insurance and also have smoked a high number of cigarettes at some point in their life. It indicates that the people who refuse to stop smoking are probably the biggest addicts.

According to the scientists, the outcome can help identify patients who are less likely to quit smoking after diagnosis. As smoking cessation is extremely important for your health, identifying those who are likely continue with their nasty habits is relevant information. Clinicians can focus more on getting these people to stop smoking as part of their treatment. In a side note, some doctors refuse treatment when a patient smokes. It sort of makes sense, as it is weird that people spend time and money to make a patient better, while they are destroying their health at the same time. Especially in the case of lung cancer, as the majority of cases are believed to be caused by smoking.

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