Can’t Stop: Quitting Smoking After a Cancer Diagnosis

WRITTEN BY: CancerCenter
Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

It may seem unbelievable to someone who doesn’t smoke, but lighting up after a cancer diagnosis is more common than you might think.

In fact, according to one recent study, nearly 10 percent of cancer patients continue to smoke years after their diagnosis, with the majority of them doing so on a daily basis. People who have had cancer of the bladder, ovaries, and lungs are even more likely to keep smoking. Overall, cancer survivors who smoked light up an average of 15 cigarettes a day.

That’s a concern, because smoking is not only dangerously unhealthy, but can also make you less likely to respond to your cancer treatment. Here are four good reasons why it’s time for cancer survivors to quit for good.

Why You Should Quit Smoking After a Cancer Diagnosis

Quitting lowers the chance of cancer recurrence

Smoking doesn’t just increase the chances of lung cancer returning. It can also raise the risk of other cancers recurring, including those involving the larynx, throat, mouth, kidney, bladder, liver, and pancreas.

Smoking can cause chronic health problems

Even if you’ve beaten cancer, smoking still makes you vulnerable to a slew of other chronic conditions, from cardiovascular disease to diabetes.

Smoking limits the effectiveness of your cancer treatment

Smoking can alter the way your body processes chemotherapy drugs and increases your chance of developing complications from this cancer treatment.

Smoking can worsen your treatment side effects

Cancer treatment can be hard on your body, even if you’re otherwise healthy. Smoking makes side effects (such as fatigue, nausea, hair loss, and pain) worse, even months after treatment has ended.

quit smoking

Tips to Help You Quit

That’s powerful evidence of the importance of quitting tobacco. But for many people, that’s easier said than done.

The first step is to set a quit date — and stick to it. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to choosing your quit method. Different methods may be more effective than others, depending on your lifestyle and personality.

Options include going cold turkey; tapering the number of cigarettes you smoke each day over a specific period; using smoking cessation products; and seeking professional support. Your physician can tell you more about the best approaches for smoking cessation.

Learn more by visiting the UPMC Smoking Cessation website.

UPMC CancerCenter


At UPMC CancerCenter, we are your doctors, caregivers, teachers, and support system. You are not alone in your fight against cancer, and we are committed to providing you the knowledge, inspiration, and specialty cancer care you need so you can face your diagnosis with confidence. We’re here for you – as part of the community – and that’s something cancer can never take away. Read More