Cancer Treatment and Smoking: 5 Facts Patients Should Know

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in side effects

Dr. Howell

You have been diagnosed with cancer. You are either being treated for it or you have completed your treatment and now moving on with your life. If you are like most people, you are doing everything you can to stop cancer completely and prevent it from developing in your body and harming your health again. But if you are a smoker – you are the exception to the rule. According to an observational clinical study published in 2009 in the journal American Society of Clinical Oncology, smoking can adversely affect the outcomes of different modalities of cancer treatment.

For many smokers, a cancer diagnosis is a wake-up call that motivates them to ditch their Breast-Cancer-Survivor-7146686unhealthy habit. However, a 2012 study by the Massachusetts General Hospital found that a ‘substantial minority’ of smokers still continue to smoke even after being diagnosed with cancer.


If you or someone you know has cancer and currently undergoing treatments, you should avoid smoking. Here are some cancer treatment and smoking facts that you should know:

1) Smoking interferes with the success of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy and makes the patient more vulnerable to the side effects of their treatment. And over time, smoking increases the risk of other cancers.

2) It slows wound healing. Most cancer patients would need to undergo surgery. Smoking increases the possibility of post surgical complications. Research shows that smokers who undergo surgical procedures tend to stay longer in the hospital than those who don’t smoke. Furthermore, the carbon monoxide and nicotine in tobacco cause vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood

DID YOU KNOW?

Stopping smoking has been shown to double the survival rates in patients with head and neck cancer, irrespective of the extent of the disease at the time of diagnosis. After two years, quitting smoking increases the survival rate of smokers to the same level of non-smokers. Meanwhile, smokers had the poorest survival rates from cell cancer.

vessels), inhibition of epithelization (natural act of healing by secondary intention), and creation of cellular hypoxia (a condition in which the body or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply) – which all contribute to impaired post-operative care.


3) There is substantial evidence that smoking reduces the effectiveness of cancer treatments. Patients who smoke are at a higher risk of poor pulmonary functioning, cardiovascular disease and immunosupression. In one study, patients who continued to smoke during radiation therapy suffered mucositis for a longer time (23.4 weeks) than those who stopped smoking after diagnosis (13.6 weeks).

4) Stopping smoking has been shown to double the survival rates in patients with head and neck cancer, irrespective of the extent of the disease at the time of diagnosis. After two years, quitting smoking increases the survival rate of smokers to the same level of non-smokers. Meanwhile, smokers had the poorest survival rates from cell cancer.

5) Cancer patients who continue to smoke are at risk of dying. In a study on men with prostate cancer, smoking was linked to premature death. On the other hand, prostate cancer patients who quit for 10 years had mortality rates similar to that of non-smokers.


There’s large evidence suggesting a close link between smoking and cancer treatment. Smoking brings nothing but harm to your health. If you are undergoing therapy for cancer and you smoke, now is the time to stop and increase your chances of survival, and most of all – regain your health.


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