Cigarette smoking causes nearly one-third of all cancer deaths in the U.S. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to quit, and the sooner the better. But quitting is rewarding no matter how old you are or whether you have health problems.
The benefits are almost immediate. Ex-smokers have fewer illnesses, like colds and the flu, lower rates of bronchitis and pneumonia and feel healthier than people who still smoke.
Just 20 minutes after quitting, your heart and blood pressure drop. In just 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. In as little as two weeks, your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
Nearly everyone knows that smoking can cause lung cancer, but fewer people realize it is also linked to a higher risk for many other kinds of cancer. Quitting smoking also lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke and chronic lung disease.
If You Have Cancer
If you’ve already been diagnosed with cancer or another significant health problem, quitting smoking often makes it more likely the treatment will be successful and that you’ll have fewer side effects.
But a study by American Cancer Society (ACS) researchers found that about 1 in 10 cancer survivors still reports smoking about nine years after a diagnosis. Lead author Lee Westmaas, director of the ACS’ tobacco control research, says doctors and health care providers must continue to ask cancer survivors about their smoking and provide resources, including medications and counseling, to help them quit.
If your health care provider doesn’t ask you about quitting, you should do the asking, he says. It could be the first step toward getting the help you need.
If you’re a caregiver, Westmaas says, you may be able to help a cancer patient by quitting yourself. In another study, Westmaas and ACS colleagues found that cancer patients and survivors were more likely to keep smoking if they lived in the same household with another smoker.
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