The world’s largest cancer conference, ASCO, is underway in Chicago. Among the many thousands of doctors and researchers, our nurses are at the meeting to learn about the latest research. In this first report from the conference, Caroline Geraghty writes about a session that she attended on the impact of tobacco.

Friday was World No Tobacco Day and I found myself in a packed hall listening to world experts about the devastating impact of cigarettes and the many cancers smoking causes.

Also – perhaps something we don’t focus on enough – the impact smoking has on someone who is already diagnosed with cancer.

In the UK, smoking accounts for nearly 20 per cent of all cancer cases and more than eight in ten cases of lung cancer. But there’s emerging evidence that it can also have a devastating effect on people who are already diagnosed with cancer. On the plus side, even when someone develops cancer quitting smoking can have a positive impact on their health.

Speakers discussed how smoking when diagnosed with cancer has been shown in numerous studies and research to be associated with:

  • decreased survival;
  • increased risk of developing a second primary cancer;
  • greater side effects of treatment;
  • a poor treatment response;
  • higher risk of heart and lung conditions;
  • and a poorer quality of life.

Doctors and nurses caring for cancer patients who are still smoking play a key role in helping that person to successfully stop.

But a worrying US study carried out by thoracic surgeons showed that a large proportion of cancer patients did not believe that smoking would affect how successful their treatment was.

The group of doctors speaking at ASCO all agreed that once diagnosed everyone with cancer and still smoking should get referred to smoking cessation clinics. In the UK these are available in hospitals and in the community. They provide expert help and advice to help people stop smoking.

So, the potential benefits of quitting are:

  • a better chance of successful treatment;
  • reduced side effects of cancer treatments;
  • faster recovery from treatment;
  • easier breathing;
  • more energy;
  • and a better quality of life.

Quitting smoking isn’t always easy, so we encourage people to use the resources available to them to try and stop. Your GP or cancer specialist doctor or nurse will know more about smoking cessation clinics near you.

Caroline Geraghty, Senior Cancer Information Nurse

  • You can call our information nurses with any questions about cancer on freephone 0808 800 4040.