Smoking cessation aids in the prevention of cancer and chronic disease

January 24, 2012

National Non Smoking Week, January 20 – 26, in Canada reinforces the benefits of smoking cessation. Smoking cessation by inpatients and outpatients can make a larger difference to reducing the risk of cancer and chronic disease as well as improve surgical outcomes and recovery.

“Stopping tobacco use has huge implications for individual health and the health care system,” says Sheila Densham, health promotion coordinator, cancer prevention and regional integrated screening at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and the South West Regional Cancer Program.

Smoking is strongly linked with many types of cancer including breast, lung, colon, leukemia, bladder, kidney, oral and cervical. “When looking at cancer specifically, because there is no cure, prevention and early detection are the best health care tools we have and smoking cessation is an important step in the prevention of cancer” continues Densham. Additionally, other chronic diseases are also linked with smoking including stroke, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and diabetes.

The benefits of smoking cessation however do not only extend to the prevention of cancer and chronic disease. Surgeons at London Health Sciences Centre and across the South West region recommend people quit smoking at least three weeks in advance of their surgery. “People who stop smoking before surgery will experience less complication with anaesthetic, less chance of atelectasis, decreased secretions in the lungs, less likelihood of pneumonia, incisions heal much better, and decreased chance of heart attack,” says Sue Stein, diagnostic assessment nurse navigator, LHSC and the South West Regional Cancer Program. “These benefits will result in a quicker recovery and a shorter hospital stay for patients.”

In her role as a patient navigator, Stein has the opportunity to speak with patients about the importance of quitting smoking and the benefit to their healthcare and overall health. Stein provides patients with information and resources to help them quit smoking including information for the Smokers’ Helpline and a recommendation they speak with the local pharmacist who can provide six 10-minute sessions about quitting smoking at no cost.

To further smoking cessation efforts, LHSC has applied for a program grant to implement the Ottawa Model for Smoking Cessation (OMSC) within the hospital. The OMSC is an institutional program that systematically identifies, provides treatment, and offers follow-up to all smokers seen in clinical practice. Implementation of the OMSC has led to an absolute 11.1% improvement (from 18.3% to 29.4%) in long-term cessation rates among its hospitalized patients and nearly 144 healthcare sites across Canada have joined the program.