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Smoking Cessation Strategies Needed for Patients With Head and Neck Cancer

Gina Columbus @ginacolumbusonc
Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lisa Fucito, PhD

Lisa Fucito, PhD

Alcohol and tobacco use have long been determined as the 2 most significant risk factors associated with developing head and neck cancer, as these are causes of more than 75% of cases—specifically cancers of the oropharynx, hypopharynx, oral cavity, and larynx.

State of the Science Summit on Head and Neck Cancer, Fucito, an assistant professor of psychiatry, and director of the Tobacco Treatment Service at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, discussed why it is imperative for patients to quit smoking after a head and neck cancer diagnosis.

OncLive®: Can you start by giving an overview of your presentation?

Fucito: I really focused a bit more on the risks associated with smoking in cancer, and I tried to emphasize that even though patients are presenting with very advanced cancer, there is still a benefit to them quitting smoking. This is a teachable moment for these patients and it still matters in regard to their treatment response. I highlighted the risk factors and disease recurrence and how that is tied to smoking.

Then, I made some suggestions for what physicians might want to consider in order to address patient tobacco use, what specific tools they can use, and what are some of the specific treatment recommendations. E-cigarettes are now very popular, so I also provided some data on using them.

Many patients continue to smoke after their diagnosis. How do you go about trying to convince them otherwise?

For a lot of people, getting a cancer diagnosis seems to be the “best way” to get people to quit. We see a lot of spontaneous quitting right at the time of diagnosis or before a surgical procedure. However, what we see all too often is that once someone has gone through some treatment and is still smoking, they are at risk for it growing back. After an initial diagnosis and several phases of treatment, you may get patients to stop [for a short time].
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