Help make your cancer treatments more effective: Quit smoking

December 01, 2022

Cancer Wellness
old man breaks cigarette

Not smoking is a surefire way to improve anyone’s health — but avoiding all tobacco and vaping products is especially important for people with cancer and cancer survivors. “Regardless of how long or how much you smoke, not smoking is critical to your best chance at living your most healthy life during and after cancer treatment,” explains Angela  DeRidder, M.D., an oncologist in the Riverside Cancer Care Network. Learn about the many benefits of not smoking — and how to get help with kicking the habit.

Benefits of not smoking during cancer treatment

A cancer diagnosis and the treatments that follow can be stressful. And while it’s easy to take comfort in long-time habits, some habits can make your health worse. Smoking is one of the most dangerous habits to keep up during cancer treatment. In people who are actively undergoing cancer treatment quitting smoking can help:

  • Improve your immune system, which is critical to fighting any cancer
  • Improve the effectiveness of cancer treatments
  • Decrease your risk of complications related to cancer and its treatments
  • Decrease your chance that cancer comes back
  • Decrease your chance of developing another type of cancer

By quitting smoking, you can take advantage of many benefits and start to help heal your body.

Beyond improving your overall health, breathing easier and feeling stronger, you’ll experience several long-term cancer-related benefits when you stop smoking. These include: 


 Timeframe after quitting


 Within 20 minutes Your heart rate and blood pressure drop
 Within 12 hours The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal 
 In 5 days Most nicotine is out of your body
 In 1 week Your sense of taste and smell improves
 In 1 month Your skin appearance is likely to improve
 Within 3 months Your circulation and lung function improves
 Within 9 months You will cough less and breathe easier
 In 12 months A former pack a day smoker in Virginia will save over $2000
 After 1 year Your risk of heart disease is cut in half
 After 5 years Your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder is cut in half and your risk decreases to that of a non-smoker
 After 10 years You are half as likely to die from lung cancer and your risk of larynx and pancreatic cancer decreases
 After 15 years Your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a non-smoker

 Get help to quit smoking

Trying to quit smoking is hard at any time. Maybe it’s something you’ve done for years. Maybe it steadies your nerves when you’re stressed. But when you’re fighting cancer, you want your treatments to work, and smoking doesn’t help.

“Trying to quit smoking can be stressful during an already stressful time when you’re undergoing cancer treatment,” says Dr. DeRidder. “Thankfully, effective resources can help you quit once and for all.”

Resources to help you quit smoking include:

  • Counseling. One of the best resources for a patient is to access their state’s free telephone support line; call this number to directly connect to the Virginia “quitline”: 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Their quit coaches are experts at helping people quit and can help you with a personalized quit plan, identify your smoking triggers and develop more healthy coping mechanisms for everyday stressors.
  • Education. Learning more about the positive effects of quitting — and the negative effects of smoking — can help motivate you to quit and stay away from tobacco products. 
  • Nicotine replacement therapies. There are many FDA-approved medications available to help you quit smoking. And some you can even get over the counter. Depending on what works best for you, options include gum, patches, lozenges, inhalers and nasal sprays.

You may find one or a combination of these strategies work best for you. However, the sooner you start, the longer-lasting your results will be.

Quit smoking and improve your chances against cancer 

If you’re ready to focus on beating cancer and want to quit smoking to improve your success, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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