Even with lung cancer, quitting cigarettes helps
Once people have been diagnosed with lung cancer they might think it pointless to stop smoking, but in fact it’s not too late to benefit from quitting, a new study shows.
Researchers found that among more than 200 lung cancer patients at their center, those who quit smoking after the diagnosis became less severely impaired by the disease than those who kept up the habit.
Specifically, their “performance status”—a measure of patients’ ability to care for themselves and function in daily life—was generally higher, according to findings published in the medical journal Chest.
Patients who gave up cigarettes did not live appreciably longer than those who continued smoking, the study found, but the difference in quality of life highlights the importance of quitting even after lung cancer develops, according to the study authors.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a correlation between smoking cessation after diagnosis and performance status,” write Dr. Sevin Baser and his colleagues.
The researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston based their findings on 206 men and women treated at their center for non-small cell lung cancer—which, of the two major forms of lung cancer, is the less aggressive type.
Of these patients, 93 were smokers at the time of diagnosis, and half subsequently quit.
Over the next year, there was no clear difference in survival odds between the two groups, Baser’s team found. However, patients who quit smoking were far more likely to maintain their performance status, which essentially means they had greater well-being.
The difference was seen regardless of a patient’s age, overall health or stage of cancer, according to the researchers.
Continued smoking, they note, may deteriorate a lung cancer patient’s quality of life by starving their tissues of oxygen, which worsens outcomes from chemotherapy and radiation. It may also speed the weight loss that often comes with cancer.
“Our results,” the researchers write, “highlight the importance of smoking cessation in lung cancer patients and provide oncologists with additional evidence for making this recommendation.”
SOURCE: Chest, December 2006.
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