|Quit Smoking to Breathe Easier for Life|
In light of today’s economic challenges, quitting smoking is good for not only your health but also your wallet. Cigarette smoke contains approximately 4,000 chemicals, many of them toxic, and the ingredients in cigarettes affect everything from how internal organs function to the efficiency of your immune system. Studies show that smokers have a harder time healing from surgeries and have more overall health issues than nonsmokers. Smoking has been shown to increase your risk for several cancers, including bladder, esophageal, laryngeal, lung, oral, and throat cancers, as well as chronic lung diseases and coronary heart and cardiovascular diseases.
Smoke-Free During Cancer Treatment
For patients who are diagnosed with cancer, particularly lung cancer, the first advice experts give is to stop smoking.
“Smoking cessation is the best prevention approach to lung cancer, but also oral cavity, head and neck, esophageal, gastric, pancreatic, cervical, and bladder cancers,” says Pierre P. Massion, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology with the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville. “You increase your lifespan if you quit smoking, either way, even if you are diagnosed with a lung cancer.”
He emphasized that quitting smoking offers the best chances for success for cancer treatment. “It is important because it has been proven to prolong a patient’s life span,” Dr. Massion adds. “It reduces coughing and shortness of breath. It may decrease risk of getting complications from radiation therapy in particular.”
A Solid Quitting Plan is Vital to Success
Mark T. Dransfield, MD, Interim Director of the Lung Health Center in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at University of Alabama at Birmingham, states that although there is no “magic bullet” to stop smoking, medications can help, and that medications are most effective when combined with counseling.
Available medications include:
If you have made the decision to stop smoking, the American Lung Association maintains that having a solid smoking cessation plan in place can greatly improve your chances of success. They offer some tips and resources that have helped thousands of people give up smoking for good, such as:
Additional tips include finding healthy distractions or alternatives when you feel an urge to smoke, such as chewing gum, eating a piece of fruit or carrot sticks, or brushing your teeth or using mouthwash (especially after eating a meal, when most smokers feel the desire to smoke). Try to do something else for at least 5 minutes (like taking a brisk walk around the block) to get your mind off of your craving, especially during those times when you would normally be taking a cigarette break. It should be something that requires some concentration.
It May Take a Village to Help You Quit Smoking
Family, friends, and coworkers can be a great help. Letting people around you know of your plans, and avoiding places where your urge to smoke may be heightened can make your environment better for quitting. For example, ask others who smoke not to smoke around you, and don’t go to bars that allow smoking. Try to avoid being around smokers as much as possible.
Dr. Dransfield and Dr. Massion agree on some suggestions for you, and your family, friends, and coworkers who are willing to help you:
A More Structured Approach
Programs such as the Freedom From Smoking free online smoking cessation program offered by the American Lung Association have helped thousands of people quit smoking. For a more personalized experience, some areas or institutions have a 7-step program. This is offered in a group setting, since many participants find support a beneficial component of the quitting process.
A listing of Freedom from Smoking program locations around the country can be accessed by visiting www.lungusa.org. You can also speak to a cessation counselor at the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA to receive smoking cessation counseling and one-on-one support from registered nurses and respiratory therapists.
In addition, for 2011, the National Tobacco Cessation Collaborative and Consumer Demand Roundtable released “What Works? A Guide to Quit Smoking Methods”—the first consumer version of their clinical guidelines. The microsite features complete science-based information that compares quit smoking methods, products, costs, success rates, and where to find additional resources.
Don’t Give Up
Quitting smoking is difficult, even after you make up your mind to quit, and even for people with a plan, willpower, and a support system. For many people, smoking is not just a habit but also an addiction (characterized by a physiologic and sometimes psychologic dependence).
Sometimes getting to the root of why you smoke may help you stop. “Even if you feel like you can’t stop, it can be helpful to start thinking about why you smoke,” says Dr. Dransfield. “Making a list of why you smoke and comparing it to a list of reasons to quit or things that are important to you can help build your confidence to quit. Remember, most smokers try to quit 6 to 9 times in their lives.”
Pinpointing stressful areas in your daily life that may increase your desire to smoke can allow you to develop ways to handle these situations without the help of nicotine.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Quitting smoking has a number of advantages, even besides the obvious health benefit. Smoking is expensive and can alienate non-smoking people in your life, and secondary smoke is dangerous to others. Although the craving will be difficult to overcome in the beginning, it may help to focus on how good you may be starting to feel and how much more energy you have.
Quitting this addiction can also have an impact on your mood, but if you focus on the overall benefit, this may help you attain your goal of being smoke- and craving-free -- and make the people who care about you happy too!