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The Globe and Mail

When cancer doesn't stop smoking

Even with a cancer diagnosis, some people still find it hard to quit smoking, a new study has revealed.

U.S. researchers looked at smoking rates among 5,338 patients with either lung or colorectal cancer. At the time of diagnosis, 39 per cent of lung cancer patients and 14 per cent of colorectal cancer were smokers. Five months later, 14 per cent of lung cancer and 9 per cent of colorectal cancer patients continued to puff away, according to their findings published in the journal Cancer.

Their inability to stop may, in part, stem from a sense of fatalism, said the lead author of the study, Elyse Park of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University's medical school in Boston. "They feel they can't do it and it's too late anyways."

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She insisted, however, it's never too late to butt out. "The chances of doing better with treatment are increased by giving up tobacco," she said. In fact, some research indicates that smoking interferes with the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

And yet this message isn't always communicated to patients. Or doctors may not provide enough support and guidance on how to quit. "The bottom line is that patients need tobacco [cessation]treatment as part of cancer care," Dr. Park said.

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