Health Encyclopedia


Health Encyclopedia Home

It’s Never Too Late to Quit Smoking

It's Never Too Late to Quit Smoking

When you've been diagnosed with cancer--particularly lung cancer--it may be hard to think or talk about quitting smoking. Why? Because you smoke even though everybody knows that smoking is bad for your health. And everyone knows that it can cause cancer. Plus, we also know that quitting is hard.

Over the years, perhaps you have tried to quit. Or maybe you wanted to, or planned on it, but never did. Now that you're faced with cancer, you may be overwhelmed with guilt, or focused on your treatment. You may not even be thinking about quitting smoking. Or you may be thinking, "I've got cancer; it makes no sense now."

"It makes a lot of sense to try to stop," says Greg Videtic, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic's Radiation Oncology Department. "Quitting smoking seems to have an impact, not just in terms of feeling better, but in terms of how long people with cancer live," he says.

Videtic looked at a group of limited-stage small-cell lung cancer patients over 10 years.

He compared the survival rates of the people who continued to smoke during treatment to the people who quit. Using medical records, the researchers found 186 people who had standard chemotherapy with radiation treatment. These people provided information about their smoking habits. All of them were smokers, and 58 percent had stopped smoking before they started treatment. Researchers found that the people who stopped smoking lived longer, on average, than those who continued to smoke.

A lot of doctors may not encourage people to quit smoking after being diagnosed with cancer, especially lung cancer. One of the reasons is that they don't want to make people feel bad. "People still need to be encouraged," says Videtic. "I don't go on blaming them; I just say, "Look, you are where you are, but there is even more we can do to help you."

While Videtic's research looked only at people with lung cancer, he feels comfortable encouraging all people with cancer to quit smoking. "About a year ago, I was talking to a younger woman who had breast cancer, and she was smoking," says Videtic. "I said to her, "There's evidence from other areas in the body that quitting has an impact. If you're going to put yourself through this fairly aggressive treatment with the hope that it will do better for you, then maybe you should consider not smoking." A week later she came back and said it was exactly what she needed to hear in order to stop smoking.

Videtic's study is one among other recent research studies that give evidence to smokers with cancer that it's never too late to quit. His research suggests that smoking may interfere with how well the treatment works. "One of the bad things about smoking is that it has a multiple impact," says Videtic. So exactly how it affects cancer and treatment is a hard thing to determine.

Research is also looking into how continuing to smoke may affect the spread of cancer. Plus, studies have shown that if you stop smoking after you've completed your treatment, you have a lower risk of getting another cancer afterward.

"While that's slightly different in that it is after the treatment," says Videtic, "it tells us that if you cure the first cancer, by continuing to smoke, you do have a higher risk for a second cancer."

This information is not supposed to make people feel guilty, Videtic explains. He usually tells people, "Here's a piece of information you might want to know if you're thinking about getting treatment because this will help you, too. Most people are usually glad to know that they can still do something to help themselves."

To find support in your area, visit the American Cancer Society's website, You can also call the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Cancer Information Service toll-free number, 1-800-4-CANCER, (800-422-6237) or visit their website,

Related Items
Wellness Library
  Cool Tools to Keep Your Kids From Smoking
  Guidelines for Raising Smoke-Free Kids
  Up in Smoke: Cigars and Your Health
  Why Quit Smoking?
  Smoking Adds Another Wrinkle to Aging
  Talk With Your Kids About These Issues
  Smoking and Gum Disease
  Smoking and Asthma Don't Mix
  The High Cost of Smoking
Content Type 134
  Smoking and the Digestive System
Drug Reference
  Nicotine Quiz
  Smoking and Pregnancy Quiz
  Cost of Smoking Calculator
  Cost of Smoking Tool
Disease Management
  Smoking and Asthma
Daily News Feed
  Smokers' Cell Damage Exists Even If Tests Miss It, Study Says
  Highest-Risk Smokers Benefit Most From CT Scan Screening: Study
  Plain Brown Cigarette Packs May Help Some Smokers Quit: Study
  Single Men Show Higher Risk of Cancer-Linked Oral HPV
  For Seniors, Unhealthy Living May Lead to Disability
  Poll: U.S. Adults Support Smoking Ban in Cars With Kids
  Menthol May Boost Cigarettes' Addictive Properties: Study
  Smoking During Pregnancy Tied to Behavior Issues in Kids
  Growing Up Poor May Raise Odds for Smoking: Study
  U.S. Panel Backs Routine Lung CT Scans for Older, Heavy Smokers
  Casino Smoking Ban Tied to Drop in Ambulance Calls
  If Parents Ever Smoked, Teens May Be More Likely to Light Up
  Cigarette Taxes Deter Heavy Drinking, Study Suggests
  Many Kids With Asthma Live With Secondhand Smoke: CDC
  Breast-Feeding May Protect Some Women Against Breast Cancer
  Women Smokers Face Increased Risk of Lethal Stroke: Review
  Hundreds of Thousands of Teens Use Pot, Alcohol Each Day: Report
  Menthol Cigarette Use Rising Among Young Smokers
  Friends' Online Photos May Sway Teens' Behavior
  Young Americans' Prescription Med Abuse Still Down: Report
  More Evidence Backs Routine CT Scans for Early Lung Cancer Detection
  E-Cigarettes May Equal Nicotine Patches for Smoking Cessation
  Teens' Use of E-Cigarettes Doubles in a Year: CDC
  Smoking Plus Asthma in Pregnancy May Make for 'Dangerous Situation'
  'Tips From Smokers' Campaign Beat Expectations
  Report Sees Continued Advances in War Against Cancer
  Health Tip: Smoking Affects Heart Health
  U.S. Funds New Tobacco Regulation Research Centers
  Friends, Family Often the Suppliers in Underage Drinking, Smoking: Survey
  E-Cigarettes: Separating Fiction From Fact
  A Guide to Smoking-Cessation Options
  Smoking in Pregnancy May Be Tied to Bipolar Disorder in Adult Offspring: Study
  Docs Urged to Treat Unhealthy Habits Before Damage Is Done
  Early Puberty Tied to Higher Odds of Substance Use in Teens: Survey
  Health Tip: When Athletes Smoke
  Pricey Cigarettes, Smoke-Free Homes Help Curb Habit, Study Suggests
  Being Web-Savvy Tied to Better Health in Seniors: Study
  Infants Exposed to Smoking in Womb at Risk of Infections, Death: Study
  Stroke Affecting Younger People Worldwide, Study Shows
  Flavored Cigars Gaining in Popularity With U.S. Kids: CDC
  Tests May Someday Show Which Breast, Prostate Cancers Will Turn Aggressive
  Mondays Might Be Your Best Day to Quit Smoking
  E-Cigarettes May Not Be Gateway to Smoking: Study
  Study of Twins Shows How Smoking Ages the Face
  Gaps in Smoke-Free Workplace Laws May Leave Many Exposed
  Tobacco Myths Continue Half-Century After Landmark U.S. Report
  Quitting Tips for Thursday's Great American Smokeout
  Magnetic Brain Stimulation May Help Smokers Quit
  More U.S. Teens Try E-Cigarettes, Hookahs: Report
  College Students Feel Pull of Cigarette Ads, Study Finds
  Quitting Smoking May Help Seniors' Hearts Sooner Than Thought
  Health Tip: When You Want to Quit Smoking
  Graphic Warnings on Cigarette Packs May Cut Smoking Rates: Study
  Those With Insurance More Likely to Use Preventive Care: Study
  Mother's Smoking, Early Birth May Raise ADHD Risk in Children
  Obesity, Smoking Might Threaten Implants After Mastectomy
  Men Who Smoke After Cancer Diagnosis Face Higher Death Risk
  Pot Smoking in Pregnancy Tied to Stillbirth Risk
  Many Americans Don't Receive Preventive Dental Care: Survey
  U.S. Cancer Death Rates Continue to Decline: Report
  Survey Finds Support for Banning E-Cigarette Use by Kids
  Total Smoking Bans Work Better Than Halfway Measures
  Anxiety Tied to Stroke Risk in Study
  Counselors Give Smokers Best Chance to Quit: Study
  U.S. Panel Backs Routine Lung CT Scans for Older, Heavy Smokers
  Quitting Smoking May Cut Cataract Risk
  Smoking Tied to Higher Post-Op Medical Costs
  Big Cigarette Tax Hikes Might Prevent 200 Million Deaths in a Century
  Chantix Helped People With Mental Illness Quit Smoking Longer in Study
  U.S. Cancer Deaths Decline Again: Report
  Half-Century of Smoking Prevention Extended 8 Million Lives: Study
  Drug Duo Might Help Smokers Quit Better Than Single Med
  Students Smoke Weed Despite Drug Testing at Schools, Study Finds
  U.S. Lung Cancer Rates Continue to Drop: CDC
  Smoking in Pregnancy Tied to Later Nicotine Addiction in Daughters
  Truck Drivers Top List of Overweight Workers
  Testing for Smoke Exposure May Predict Rehospitalization for Asthma
  U.S. Smoking Rates Drop to Historic Lows: CDC
  Smoking While Pregnant Raises Baby's Risk of Cleft Palate, Cleft Lip
  U.S. Health Officials Urge Renewed Fight to Stamp Out Cigarette Use
  Much More Must Be Done to Lower Smoking Rates, Experts Say
  Could Antioxidants Speed Up Cancer Progression?
  Health Tip: Avoid Weight Gain While Quitting Smoking
  CDC to Launch Latest Graphic Anti-Smoking Campaign
  CVS Caremark to Stop Selling Tobacco Products
  Teens' Energy Drink Habit May Be Linked to Booze, Tobacco, Drug Use
  Quitting Smoking Linked to Better Mental Health in Study
  Fire-Safe Cigarette Law Reduces Home Fires: Study
  2-Mile Daily Walk Might Help Fight COPD
  Poor Fitness in Middle Age Tied to Higher Risk of Dementia
  Secondhand Smoke in Childhood Thickens Arteries
  Rising E-Cigarette Use Tied to More Smoking in Teens
  Nicotine Patches Don't Help Pregnant Women Quit Smoking: Study
  Smokers' Brains Perk Up at Positive Cigarette Images: Study
  Smokers' Broken Bones May Heal Less Quickly: Study
  E-Cigarettes Won't Help You Quit, Study Finds
  Smoking May Dull Ability to Sense Bitter Tastes
  Smoking Bans Linked to Drop in Premature Births, Kids' Asthma Attacks
  Cutting Cigarette Scenes From TV Shows May Have Helped Reduce Smoking
  Health Tip: Secondhand Smoke Puts Babies at Risk
  Liquid Nicotine in E-Cigarettes Rising Cause of Poisonings: CDC
  Smoking, Drinking Combo Raises Odds for Esophageal Cancer
  FDA Proposes E-Cigarette Regulations
  Smoke-Free Laws May Help Prevent COPD Hospitalizations
  Smoking in Pregnancy May Be Linked to Baby's Heart Defects
  Tweens Who Play Sports Less Likely to Smoke: Study
  Young Adults Think E-Cigs Safer Than Tobacco Ones
  E-Cigarette Vapor Contains Potentially Harmful Particles: Review
  Little Cigars Liked by Teens Are Still 'Candy-Flavored Tobacco': Report
  Smoking More Likely Among Teens Whose Parents Light Up
  Exercise Linked to Improved Bladder Cancer Survival
  FDA Asks Public to Join Battle Against Smoking by Children
  Early Menopause Linked to Heart Failure Risk in Swedish Study
  People With Mental Health Issues More Likely to Turn to E-Cigarettes: Study
  Hookahs Not a Safe Alternative to Cigarettes, Study Shows
  COPD Patients Face Greater Risk of Heart Failure, Study Says
  Stepped-Up Screening Would Uncover More Lung Cancers, Study Says
  Fewer Americans Believe E-Cigs Safer Than Tobacco Cigarettes: Study
  Can E-Cigarettes Help You Quit Smoking?
  Size of Brain Aneurysm Doesn't Predict Chances of Rupture: Study
  Your Income Might Influence Your Risk for Certain Cancers
  E-Cigarette Advertising Soars on American TV, Study Finds
  Among New Smokers, Teen Boys More Likely to Quit Than Girls: Study
  1 in 4 Smokers With Gene Defect May Get Lung Cancer
  Text Messages May Double Smoker's Odds of Quitting
  Pot Isn't Harmless, Top U.S. Health Official Says
  No Drop in Smokeless Tobacco Use Among U.S. Workers: CDC
  Doctors' Group Calls for Tougher Rules on Sale of E-Cigarettes
  E-Cigarette Sources Soaring, Study Finds
  Quitting Smokeless Tobacco May Boost Survival After Heart Attack
  Screen Older Men Who've Ever Smoked for Aneurysms: Experts
  CDC Readies Latest Graphic Anti-Smoking Ads
  Health Tip: Quit Smoking, Especially While Pregnant
  Hookah Smoking Popular Among Well-Heeled Teens: Survey
  Combo Approach May Work Best for Smokers Looking to Quit
  Lung Groups: Governments Should Limit or Ban Use of E-Cigarettes
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease
  Risk Factors for Stroke
  Smoking and Pregnancy
  Pharyngitis and Tonsillitis
  Smoking and Respiratory Diseases
  Impotence/Erectile Dysfunction
Pediatric Diseases and Conditions