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Most smokers with head and neck cancer were STILL smoking cigarettes two years after treatment

Most smokers diagnosed with head and neck cancer were still smoking cigarettes two years after treatment, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis tracked 89 people in their 60s who were smoking at least five cigarettes a day when they were diagnosed.

Of the 61 who were still alive two years after treatment, up to 38, or 60 percent, were still smokers.

The team of researchers suggested that many failed to quit because they were smoke-free at the time of diagnosis, quitting all cigarettes, risking a relapse. They called for smokers suffering from cancer to be offered counseling and medication to help them kick the habit.

Smokers with cancer were three times more likely to quit in the first six months after diagnosis than at any other time, they said.

The graph above shows the proportion of head or neck cancer patients who were still smoking (dark blue) or had quit smoking (brown area) six to 24 months after treatment

The graph above shows the proportion of head or neck cancer patients who were still smoking (dark blue) or had quit smoking (brown area) six to 24 months after treatment

This shows the proportion of patients diagnosed with head or neck cancer who were still smoking (dark blue), had quit (brown), or died (light blue) six to 24 months after treatment.  All had smoked at the time of diagnosis.

This shows the proportion of patients diagnosed with head or neck cancer who were still smoking (dark blue), had quit (brown), or died (light blue) six to 24 months after treatment. All had smoked at the time of diagnosis.

Approximately 66,000 Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancer each year, estimates suggest, and as many as three in five survive for half a decade after diagnosis.

Both tobacco and alcohol increase someone’s risk of disease, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But occupational exposures, such as dust or asbestos on construction sites, or contracting certain viruses can also increase risk.

What is head and neck cancer?

Head and neck cancers include those that start in multiple places in the head and throat.

These can include the sinuses (spaces behind the nose), the tongue, the larynx or larynx, and the roof of the mouth.

About 66,000 Americans are diagnosed with these cancers each year, estimates suggest.

Survival rates show that as many as three out of five will survive for half a decade after diagnosis.

Symptoms of cancers include the following:

  • Jaw swelling;
  • unusual bleeding or pain in the mouth;
  • Lump or thickening in the affected area;
  • Nosebleed;
  • Blocked sinuses that do not clear.

Scientists say that alcohol and tobacco are the main risk factors for cancers.

But occupational exposures, such as to dust or asbestos on construction sites, and contracting certain viruses could also increase someone’s risk.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the study, published Thursday in JAMA Otorhinolaryngology — Scientists followed patients who came to the University of Minnesota head and neck surgery clinic between 2009 and 2017.

The participants had been smoking for at least 16 years on average and had tried to quit about five times.

In the first six months after surgery, 32 smokers quit (32 percent), but 52 continued to smoke cigarettes.

By the two-year mark of patients still alive, there were 23 (40 percent) who had smoked at diagnosis but quit.

During this period, eight smokers who managed to quit later relapsed.

A total of 27 patients died.

The study did not investigate the methods smokers used to quit cigarettes.

However, the medical researcher who led the study, Dr. Tyler van Heest, and others wrote in the article: “Among active smokers with throat and neck cancer, previous quit attempts are often ‘cold turkey’ attempts.” ” without help”.

‘An intervention that combines cognitive behavioral therapy and [medication] was the only intervention that showed significantly higher smoking cessation rates compared to a usual care control group.’

They pointed to a 2020 study that found that smokers with cancer who received twice-weekly counseling sessions and medication were twice as likely to quit as those who only received counseling sessions.

Smokers who successfully quit had used cigarettes for about 16 years on average and were smoking about 12 cigarettes a day when their cancer was diagnosed.

They had tried to quit about 10 times previously, and the longest time they went without smoking was a year and a month.

For comparison, among those who did not quit smoking, they had been smoking for an average of 28 years and smoked 18 cigarettes a day.

They had tried to quit about five times previously, and their longest period without cigarettes was 306 days.

The study also found that smokers were more likely to try to quit within the first six months of diagnosis.

The scientists suggested that this may be because they were motivated by the recent diagnosis and were less enjoying or comfortable with smoking.

They added that cigarettes could also trigger sore throats due to the impact of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.

They concluded: ‘The results of this cohort study suggest that a significant proportion of head and neck cancer patients who smoke daily at diagnosis continue to smoke after treatment.

“Those who successfully quit smoking were more likely to quit within the first six months after treatment, which could serve as a preferred window for smoking cessation interventions.”

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