Cancer Care Can’t Stop: Quitting Smoking After a Cancer Diagnosis By , February 14, 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. “Cancer diagnosis is a great time to quit smoking because it can increase survival rates and reduce the chance of cancer treatment complications and significantly improve quality of life,” says Lanie K. Francis, MD, medical oncologist and program director at the Wellness and Integrative Oncology Program at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Learn more by visiting the UPMC Smoking Cessation website. 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 during cancer treatment can increase the toxic side effects from chemotherapy and decrease your response rate to chemotherapy and radiation,” Dr. Francis says. 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. 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. “While cancer diagnosis is a stressful time, many patients want and can quit smoking with tools such as nicotine replacement and support from their care team,” Dr. Francis says. 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.