By Donna Manders, Tobacco Cessation Counselor, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
If you've survived cancer and continue to smoke or use other tobacco products, you may believe it is too late to quit or there is no benefit to quitting. Some people feel deep down they don't deserve extra help or care because smoking might have caused their cancer.
However, it is never too late to stop using tobacco. Stopping tobacco use may be the most important activity a cancer survivor can do to improve their chances of a long and healthy post-cancer life.
Whether you are a short- or long-term cancer survivor, or a loved one whose secondhand smoke affects a survivor, quitting smoking and other tobacco products is always beneficial. No form of tobacco is safe to use, whether cigarettes or other sources: cigar and pipe smoking; smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco and snuff; and alternative tobacco products like water pipes (hookahs) and electronic cigarettes.
In many ways, there are advantages to you or a loved one quitting after a cancer diagnosis:
Most smokers and tobacco users want to quit. Although it can be difficult, many people are successful, and a variety of treatment options and resources exist to help you reach your goal. It is always possible to quit, and an entire health care team may be involved in helping you, such as the doctors, nurses, social workers, physician assistants, hypnotherapists, acupuncturists and other health care professionals.
There are many physical and psychological benefits to stopping tobacco use after a cancer diagnosis, including:
On the other hand, continuing to use tobacco has the following risks:
Research shows tobacco users who get cancer (related to tobacco use or not) face increased risk of a second cancer for up to 20 years if they continue to smoke. But for people who stop smoking at the time of diagnosis, the risk is no higher than in those who had stopped smoking at least six months before diagnosis.
If you're one of the more than 70 percent of smokers who want to quit, consider this advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
More than half of all adult smokers have quit, and you can, too. Millions of people have learned to face life without a cigarette. Quitting smoking is the single most important step you can take to protect your health and the health of your family.
Weight gain is a common concern, but not everyone gains weight when they stop smoking. Learn ways to help control your weight as you quit smoking.