Team approach helps cancer patients who smoke find the support they need to quit


Team approach helps cancer patients who smoke find the support they need to quit

The `Ask, Advise, Act’ approach for supporting new cancer patients who smoke begins with health care aides like Joel Naguit.

Joel is a champion for the Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC) Tobacco Dependence Intervention Program, which follows the evidence-based `Ask, Advise, Act’ system for supporting new cancer patients who use tobacco.

Joel’s role includes filling out a Smoking Cessation Assessment form, where new patients are asked if they have used tobacco in the last six months. When patients answer `yes,’ their form gets passed along to their nurse and physician, who explain the many benefits of quitting and offer information on how to access a free trial of nicotine replacement therapy medication at the JCC Pharmacy as well as a Telehealth referral.

“We want patients to know that our entire healthcare team is here for them,” says Joel. “The Smoking Cessation Assessment form is the first step in helping patients who use tobacco get the support they need to quit.”

Quitting is the best thing patients can do to help their cancer treatment work better, whether they’re having surgery, radiation treatment or chemotherapy, says Cancer Care Ontario. 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 also 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.

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.

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. 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.

For more information on the benefits of quitting or cutting back, visit