People smoke for a number of reasons. Most smokers do it because they find it relieves stress and helps them relax. Smoking can also be a source of support when things go wrong and can give a feeling of pleasure. These are all reasons why many people continue smoking once they’ve been diagnosed with cancer.
Living with cancer and its treatment can be very difficult, and you may feel you need all the support you can get, including smoking. Nobody can force you to give up – the best reason to stop smoking is because you want to and because you feel ready to.
Sometimes your doctor may advise you on the benefits of stopping smoking in your specific situation or for your type of cancer. Having an understanding of how smoking affects your health may also motivate you to stop. Smoking increases the risk of several types of cancer, including cancers of the lung, mouth, gullet, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder and cervix, and some types of leukaemia. It also increases your risk of developing many other health problems, including heart and lung diseases, strokes, circulatory problems, dementia, impotence and infertility.
There’s also some research that shows that smoking can make some types of cancer grow more quickly. This may be because smoking weakens the body’s immunity and some of the chemicals in cigarette smoke may help the tumour to grow.
Non-smokers have fewer side effects from cancer treatment than smokers.
If you’re having treatment for cancer, stopping smoking will help you with this too. It can help the body’s ability to respond to treatment and heal. In general, non-smokers have fewer side effects from cancer treatment, and the side effects they do have tend to be less severe. Stopping smoking may also lower the risk of cancer coming back after treatment.