Can You Smoke When You Have Lung Cancer?

Continuing to smoke after the diagnosis or during the treatment of lung cancer is usually not recommended because it may decrease the survival rate and even interfere with the treatment process.
Continuing to smoke after the diagnosis or during the treatment of lung cancer is usually not recommended because it may decrease the survival rate and even interfere with the treatment process.

Continuing to smoke after the diagnosis or during the treatment of lung cancer is usually not recommended because it may decrease the survival rate and even interfere with the treatment process.

Tobacco smoking is so addictive that most of the smokers diagnosed with cancer continue to smoke even after they learn they have the disease. Many try to quit after diagnosis but can’t because of the drug’s stronghold on their bodies. A few patients may get so stressed about the cancer and its treatment that they continue to use cigarettes as a crutch.

The ways smoking affects lung cancer and its treatment are:

  • According to the studies and research, smokers who continue despite diagnosis often have more side effects from chemotherapy (such as infection, fatigue, heart and lung problems, and weight loss) and radiation (such as dry mouth, mouth sores, and loss of taste).
  • Patients who smoke also have more problems after surgery. Their wounds don’t heal faster and tend to leave more scars. Patients are often hospitalized longer, and infections take place more often.
  • Smoking also increases the chances of recurrence.

Lung cancer that is caused by smoking can be prevented. So, it is important to stop smoking or being around someone else's smoke. Even if a person has smoked a long time, quitting can lower the chances of getting cancer. If a person is already diagnosed with lung cancer, quitting makes the treatment work better and can help them live longer.

Why is it hard for patients to quit smoking even after the diagnosis?

There may be multiple reasons for an individual not to quit smoking even after diagnosis. The two main reasons may include addiction and stress. The following are the ways a person uses cigarettes to cope:

  • When faced with stress, quitting is difficult, especially when patients have to face a host of invasive surgeries and side-effect-ridden treatments.
  • For the majority of patients, smoking is the ultimate coping mechanism that they have against stress. Usually, many patients start smoking at a very young age, using it as a coping skill.
  • Therefore, their brains produce a huge amount of dopamine quickly when they smoke. This is the main cause of addiction.

The likelihood of getting lung cancer greatly increases after a few times of smoking cigarettes due to the addictive nature of nicotine and highly toxic chemicals from cigarettes released into the lungs. Cigarette smoking causes 87% of lung cancer deaths. Smoking damages the lungs and causes cancer in two ways:

  1. First, there are roughly 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, and about 150 of them are known cancer-causing agents that manipulate the way lung cells grow and divide. Over time, it increases a smoker’s risk for cancer. This cell damage happens every time a person smokes, so even a small amount of cigarette smoke increases the risk.
  2. Second, cigarette smoke inflames the lungs. At first, the lungs try to repair themselves, but over time, they cannot keep up with the damage. This ongoing injury to the cells leads to uncontrolled cancer growth over time.


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What are the available treatment options for lung cancer?

The treatment for lung cancer depends mostly on the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis. Treatment for lung cancer may include:

  • Surgery: If the cancer is limited to just a portion of the lung or a particular area of the chest, and if the patient can tolerate it, the usual treatment is surgery. Most of the time the surgery can be done minimally invasively. More than 90% of lung cancer patients may undergo minimally invasive surgery.
  • Radiation: If a patient cannot tolerate surgery due to additional medical problems, radiation therapy is an option. Radiation treatments are a safe and convenient alternative. However, they do have minimal side effects.
  • Chemotherapy: If the cancer has spread beyond the lungs and into other areas of the chest, treatment options will vary based on the size of the tumor and the extent to which the cancer has spread. These include systemic therapies treatments that circulate throughout the body that tend to be traditional chemotherapy.
  • Targeted therapy and immunotherapy: These are new sets of treatments that are being used as cancer treatment options. Several targeted therapies drugs or other substances are used to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells, causing lesser harm to normal cells than traditional chemotherapy. Immunotherapy on other hand is an even newer option that uses the immune system to fight the cancer.

Sometimes a combination of these therapies may be implemented. In many circumstances, these therapies may be combined to increase the survival rate in the patient. After being diagnosed with lung cancer, some people can quit more easily than they ever imagined. Others struggle to quit. After all, smoking is an addiction, and being diagnosed with lung cancer can be extremely stressful. It’s never too late to quit smoking, even if a person has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Studies showed that people diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer can double their chances of survival over five years if they stop smoking compared with those who continue to smoke.

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Daniel M, Keefe FJ, Lyna P, et al. Persistent Smoking After A Diagnosis Of Lung Cancer Is Associated With Higher Reported Pain Levels. J Pain. 2009;10(3):323-328.