Smoking While Fighting Cancer Costs Beyond Health

By Ann Miller Baker - November 19, 2018

Of the nearly 60,000 patients seen at Moffitt Cancer Center each year, it’s estimated that almost ten percent still smoke. Yet continued smoking can make their cancer treatment less effective. It even increases risks for secondary cancers or death. Quitting smoking can improve a cancer patient’s physical functioning, psychological well-being and quality of life.

So, how do we help these patients quit? A two-year $500,000 grant through the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Cancer Moonshot Initiative will help modify Moffitt’s electronic health record (EHR) to provide advice and connections to evidence-based treatment tailored to their specific needs.

Vani Nath Simmons, PhD, Moffitt researcher

“People may think that once you have cancer it is too late to quit smoking, but that is not the case,” said Dr. Vani Nath Simmons, Moffitt researcher and scientific director of its Cancer Center Cessation Initiative grant.  “In fact, quitting improves the chances for successful cancer treatment.  Our goal is that every Moffitt patient who smokes is not only offered help to quit, but that they are able to quit and improve their treatment outcomes.”

Quitting smoking after receiving a cancer diagnosis is very difficult. Not only are smokers battling high nicotine levels, the stress associated with cancer adds to their urge to smoke.  Teaching smokers alternative coping strategies is one key to success.  And studies show that quitting smoking actually improves mood.  Because most smokers make multiple quit attempts before they succeed, relapse prevention strategies and ongoing support also are needed.

The first step is to identify who needs help. Currently, Moffitt patients are asked about their tobacco usage by medical assistants or through an electronic questionnaire. Their answer is recorded in their EHR. The Cessation Grant will allow Moffitt to use its EHR to connect patients directly to resources such as face-to-face counseling with a Tobacco Treatment Specialist and the Florida Tobacco Quitline.   And it will allow Moffitt to offer cessation medications, quit tools and support throughout the patient’s journey to smoking cessation.

Moffitt already has a wealth of experience in creating effective, low-cost, evidence-based quit tools through its Tobacco Research and Intervention Program (TRIP), led by Dr. Thomas Brandon. TRIP-developed “extended self-help” smoking intervention booklets have already been customized for populations like pregnant women or Spanish-speaking smokers – and the NCI currently distributes them. Coordinating efforts with the 41 other NCI-designated cancer centers participating in this Cessation Initiative will help determine and develop the best interventions to help cancer patients quit smoking.

Learn more about this collaborative effort to bring research and best practices to cancer patients’ cessation efforts in this video from the NCI Cancer Center Cessation Initiative, or visit https://tobaccocontrol.cancer.gov/cessation-initiative.html.

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Ann Miller Baker Medical Science Writer 813-745-8314 More Articles

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