IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO QUIT TOBACCO USE
HHS Primary Care Nurse Cheryl Reid shares how the JCC’s Tobacco Dependence Intervention Program helps lung cancer patients butt out for better health.
There’s no room for blame or shame in cancer care, says Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) Primary Care Nurse Cheryl Reid. It’s a message she’s passionate about sharing, especially with lung cancer patients who smoke.
“These patients often blame themselves for their diagnosis,” says Cheryl, who along with her physician colleague Dr. John Goffin supports lung cancer patients at the Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC) and is also Co-Chair of the Lung Disease Site Team serving community cancer centres in the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN. “It’s extremely important to show compassion for lung cancer patients because no one chooses to develop a tobacco addiction.”
When patients blame themselves, they’re less likely to reach out for help, says Cheryl. “We understand that their decision to smoke is a complex issue. Their tobacco dependency is not their fault and their healthcare team is here to help.”
Cheryl is a champion for JCC’s Tobacco Dependence Intervention (TDI) Program, which follows the evidence-based Ask, Advise, Act approach for supporting new cancer patients who use tobacco. `Ask’ involves talking to new cancer patients about their tobacco use. `Advising’ is informing them about the many benefits of quitting. `Act’ is referring them to services such as the JCC Retail Pharmacy for medication to help them quit and Smokers’ Helpline for support.
Tobacco use increases the risk of almost 20 different types of cancer and contributes to 30 percent of all cancer deaths and up to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths, says Cancer Care Ontario. One in five new cancer patients coming to an Ontario cancer centre are current or recent tobacco users.
Provincially, tobacco use continues to be the most common modifiable risk factor for cancer and other chronic diseases. What’s less known is that cutting back or quitting can help cancer patients with their treatment and recovery. Evidence suggests that the risk of dying could be lowered by 30 to 40 percent by quitting smoking at the time of diagnosis, says Cancer Care Ontario.
Quitting is the best thing patients can do to help their cancer treatment work better, whether they’re having surgery, radiation treatment or chemotherapy. People who quit are less likely to have infections or complications during or after surgery. Quitting helps radiation therapy work better and may reduce side effects.
Quitting helps chemotherapy drugs work better since cigarette smoke has chemicals that can lower the amount of some chemo drugs in the blood, making them less effective.
Quitting also lowers the chance of a patient’s cancer coming back or getting another kind of cancer.
And for some cancer diagnoses, the benefit of smoking cessation may be equal to or even exceed, the value of state-of-the-art cancer therapies.
Until recently, tobacco cessation was rarely discussed with cancer patients. It can be a sensitive subject because they’re already experiencing a great deal of anxiety and stress due to their diagnosis. They may feel the timing is wrong because smoking is their stress reliever. Or they may feel that it’s too late because they have cancer.
“But the truth is, it’s never too late to quit or cut back,” says Cheryl.
For more information on the benefits of quitting or cutting back, visit hnhbscreenforlife.ca.