Paper Calls on Oncologists to Help Patients Quit Smoking

An oncologist speaks with a cancer patient
An oncologist speaks with a cancer patient about quitting smoking

Oncology centers should make tobacco treatment a fourth pillar of their care, according to a recent paper published in JAMA Network by UW-CTRI Director Dr. Michael Fiore, UW Carbone Cancer Center Assistant Scientist Dr. Heather D’Angelo and UW-CTRI Director of Research Dr. Tim Baker. The paper identified how, across the United States, cancer centers have been practicing oncological care successfully, their standards resting upon three pillars: surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. In this new paper, the authors suggest tobacco cessation become the fourth.

Evidence detailed in the paper identifies the urgency to integrate tobacco cessation into oncological care, as continued smoking after a cancer diagnosis can result in the continuous decline in the patient’s health, including a decreased likelihood that the cancer treatment will be successful.

“On average,” said Fiore, “50 percent of those who smoke die 10-15 years earlier than they are supposed to.”

The Cancer Care Cessation Initiative, or C3I, is looking to change that. C3I is part of the Cancer Moonshot, an initiative started in 2016 by the United States Congress and signed into law to honor Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer. C3I calls for tobacco cessation for all oncological patients who smoke as the standard of care.

“If you get a diagnosis and you smoke,” mentioned Fiore, “your likelihood of surviving is significantly decreased.” If cancer patients continue to smoke, their chances for adverse reactions to cancer treatment and developing cancer in other areas of their bodies increase.

Some of the goals of C3I are to:

  • Identify those who smoke and ensure they immediately get the care they need to quit.
  • Overcome institutional barriers to the idea of tobacco-cessation care delivery as the standard of care.
  • Create a cessation program that can sustain itself beyond the lifetime of C3I.

The success of this initiative would not only mean longer life for those who smoke but improved health, decreased chance of a second form of cancer, and an improvement in overall quality of life.

C3I represents a paradigm-shifting initiative in cancer care and is also an initiative with a more personal goal in mind: more memories to be made with patients’ friends and family and more time spent with loved ones.