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Many Doctors Do Not Provide Tobacco Cessation Assistance to Lung Cancer Patients

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Key Points

  • Results of an online survey revealed that although more than 90% of physician respondents believed that tobacco cessation should be a standard part of clinical care, only 39% routinely provided smoking cessation assistance.
  • Physicians believed that patients would be resistant to tobacco cessation treatment and many do not feel adequately prepared to deliver effective support to their patients.

Physicians who care for lung cancer patients recognize the importance of tobacco cessation but often do not provide cessation assistance to their patients, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

Survey Details

An online survey was conducted in 2012 by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer's (IASLC) Tobacco Control and Smoking Cessation Committee. The survey asked IASLC members about their practices, perceptions, and barriers to tobacco assessment and cessation in cancer patients. More than 1,500 IASLC members responded, and more than 90% of the physician respondents believe that active current smoking affects treatment outcomes and that tobacco cessation should be a standard part of clinical care. However, only 39% of respondents said they routinely provided smoking cessation assistance.

In addition, the study found that physicians believed that patients would be resistant to tobacco cessation treatment, and many do not feel adequately prepared to deliver effective tobacco cessation support to their cancer patients.

"This is the largest assessment of tobacco assessment, cessation, and perceptions of tobacco use by physicians who treat cancer patients," says Graham Warren, MD, PhD, Vice Chair for Research in Radiation Oncology at the Medical University of South Carolina and lead author on the study. "Tobacco use affects outcomes for virtually all cancer patients by increasing mortality, treatment complications, and other adverse health outcomes such as heart disease. Stopping tobacco use may be the most important activity a cancer patient can do to improve their chances of successful cancer treatment. As clinicians and researchers, we must work to improve access to tobacco cessation resources and improve effective methods of tobacco cessation for cancer patients."

Improving Access to Tobacco Cessation Assistance

The study represents a large collaborative effort led by Dr. Warren and several investigators at IASLC, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the Medical University of South Carolina, Yale University, and MD Anderson Cancer Center. "The fact that several institutions worked together to assess physician practice is a very positive step," says Ellen R. Gritz, PhD, Chair of the Department of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson Cancer Center and member of the Institute of Medicine, who was a coauthor on the study. "Hopefully, we can continue to make progress by bringing experts in diverse fields together and increase our ability to address adverse health behaviors, such as tobacco use, in cancer patients."

"The IASLC has significantly advanced our understanding of clinician behavior regarding tobacco use by cancer patients," says Alex Adjei, MD, PhD, FACP, Senior Vice President for Clinical Research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Editor in Chief of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

"Clearly there is a need to increase tobacco cessation assistance for cancer patients," says Carolyn Dresler, MD, MPA, member of the IASLC Board of Directors and the Tobacco Control and Smoking Cessation Committee. "This study really helps us better understand the barriers to implementing tobacco cessation and gives us a target to improve cessation support."

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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