Study Helps Reach More Cancer Patients Who Smoke to Help Them Quit, Reduce Disparities

A nurse tends to a cancer patient

To ensure that cancer patients get equitable, quality healthcare that includes tobacco cessation treatment, the Cancer Center Cessation Initiative (C3I) funded 22 Cancer Centers in 2017; by June 2019, those Centers were not only reaching a higher percentage of people who smoke (nearly 26%) but also reducing disparities.

Reach among all racial/ethnic groups increased significantly, according to a paper in Health Equity. For example, before the study, participating Cancer Centers reached just under 19 percent of African American patients who smoke. By the end, that increased to nearly 26 percent. Among Hispanic people who smoke, reach went up from 19 percent to almost 23 percent, for non-Hispanic people who smoke reach went from under 19 percent to just shy of 24 percent, for Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander people who smoke reach went from a little over seven percent to more than 19 percent and, most notably, for American Indian/Alaska Native people who smoke reach went from under seven percent to nearly 25 percent.

Researchers investigated 17 of the 22 total cancer centers during two six-month periods.

“There are well established disparities in both cancer outcomes and in access to smoking cessation resources,” said Dr. Heather D’Angelo, lead researcher on the study, “It was important that we evaluated whether the C3I initiative contributed to addressing any existing inequities in access to smoking cessation services for cancer patients.”

These increases in reach corresponded with structural changes in the cancer centers themselves: the addition of telephone-based counseling, text/web-based programs, and referral systems that utilized electronic health records were all associated with the increase.

Utilizing these enhanced smoking intervention systems can increase a clinician’s ability to connect with patients by reducing the barriers that exist with current treatments.

“Future research should continue to address access to smoking cessation resources for all patients,” said Dr. D’Angelo, “and examine cessation outcomes to determine how well the smoking cessation services received are helping patients to quit. Tailored messaging and communication may be needed to reach even more patients who smoke with resources to quit.

“While there is still work to do, I was impressed with the gains in reach we saw by the C3I programs overall. Great progress is being made in providing equitable smoking cessation services within cancer care.”