The Grapevine

Smoking: How To Help People With Cancer Quit This Vice

Quitting smoking is a difficult mind-boggling challenge that requires mental strength. In a recent interview with Jimmy Fallon, the star of blockbuster movie "Joker," Joaquin Phoenix, confessed he was exploring hypnosis to beat the addiction. A much easier option would be to opt for the Tobacco Treatment Program (TTP)  at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  

The personalized program admits 1,200 patients every year to individually help tackle tobacco addiction. Not only are the smokers given counseling, they are also put on prescription medication to specifically address addiction to smoking and the withdrawal symptoms experienced soon after. 

Patients from all the clinics at the university who identify themselves on an electronic questionnaire as smokers are given automatic referrals to undergo the free program. 

"We tailor nicotine replacement therapy, non-nicotine medications, and combinations of these as recommendations to each individual and provide support through behavioral counseling sessions over eight to 12 weeks following their initial consultation. Through this combined approach, we've seen effective results in cessation and abstinence," Maher Karam-Hage, medical director of the Tobacco Treatment Program, said. 

The researchers of the program published their analysis, titled “Association of a Comprehensive Smoking Cessation Program With Smoking Abstinence Among Patients With Cancer,” on September 27 in the JAMA Network Open.

Despite a cancer diagnosis, patients find it hard to quit habits that have been ingrained in them over the years. About 3,245 people were enrolled in the study, comprising of cancer patients, people with a history of cancer, patients being screened and a group formed without cancer. The study’s participants were referred to the MD Anderson Cancer Center’s program between January 1, 2006 and August 31, 2004. 

“Each treatment plan was personalized in terms of counseling session number, duration, content, and choice of pharmacotherapy, which followed a previously defined protocol consistent with National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines,” the study said. 

Treatment was a success for nearly half the patients.The final conclusion read, “In this cohort study of 3245 smokers in a tobacco treatment program, mean smoking abstinence rates were 45.1% at the 3-month follow-up, 45.8% at the 6-month follow-up, and 43.7% at the 9-month follow-up; rates did not differ between patients with and without cancer.” 

Smoking Smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer. Jonny Lindner / Pixabay