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Posts: 7
Joined: Feb 2013

After my Mom’s diagnosis of EC in November I thought she had quit, but then during treatment (2 rounds of chemo and 6 weeks of radiation), found out she had started again. I had a very frank conversation with her about it, and then she seemed to be back on track with quitting. I just found out that she is STILL smoking. I now believe she has mucositis (from the combination of smoking and the radiation), which is clearly very troublesome. 


Smoking does so much damage to “normal” tissue, and I can’t imagine the damage that is does to tissue that has been exposed to so much radiation. And given that cancerous cells are more prone to mutation than normal cells, I am also very concerned that she has basically been giving her already large tumor a free pass to grow and spread like crazy. 


NONE of her Drs. have spoken to her about smoking, which boggles my mind since she her cancer is a direct result of her lifetime of smoking. I feel like I don’t know what to do. I have gotten her multiple anti-smoking meds to try, I have had discussions with her about the damage that smoking causes, and I had offered her support. I’ve even brought up smoking during Drs. appointments, so she could get the facts from someone other than me. 


Has anyone ever had experience with a loved one continuing to smoke throughout treatment? If so, how do you think it affected the outcome of treatment or their overall diagnosis?

LauraandLarry's picture
Posts: 184
Joined: Sep 2012

My husband was a smoker. He quit as soon as he was diagnosed in September. His surgeon actually does bloodwork to check for nicotine and other substances. Even substances found in the patch, gum, or e-cigarettes. You have to be 4 weeks clean or he will not even see you. Our friend had the same surgeon and his surgery was re scheduled many times for nearly 4 months. Alot can happen in 4 months with this beast. I am a smoker and I use the excuse that I can't quit due to all of the stress right now. I know what it is like to try, it is a horrible habit, and unfortunately as important to some as food. I hope you realize how hard it is for her. Plead, beg, and stress to her that if her life is not that important to her than why should it mean anything to the Drs? I feel for you because there is so much frustration trying to get someone you love to cooperate. Good Luck to you.

Posts: 7
Joined: Feb 2013

Thank you for your reply. Although I try my hardest to understand the difficulty of quitting, but I admit, it is very difficult. I have never smoked a cigarette (or been addicted to anything for that matter), so it is hard for me to really grasp how hard it must be to give up something that you are chemically addicted to. I stressed to her that due to the fact that smoking causes a chemical dependance, that she should not get down on herself for having a hard time quitting, and should use every available resource to help make the process easier. But she still continues. 


I wish her Drs. would have stressed the importance of quitting as your surgeon did, perhaps then she would see that continued smoking can really alter her chance for surgery even being an option. Given that she was not a surgical candidate at the time of diagnosis (her tumor was too large), the chances of her being one now are slim given that smoking reduces the effectiveness of radiotherapy. 


I wish you luck with quitting smoking yourself. Know that you are a strong person, and you would be giving yourself the biggest gift by quitting. You deserve it : )

jim2011's picture
Posts: 116
Joined: Sep 2011

I smoked for 40+ years and quit about 5 years ago. I smoked and chewed the nicotine gum for the last 10 or 11 years. I have ZERO craving for smoking now. My wife still smokes and is having a hard time quiting. I used chantix to help and it worked great.

Your saying that if you dont care about your health then why should the doctors makes a lot of sense but that hasn't worked for my wife. I am using the economic approach on her now. She works part time and takes home $700 per month. At $5 a day for cigs she spends $150 per month or about 1 week of working just for the tobacco companies. I am also putting $5 per day in a locking glass container to give her a visual effect of $5 per day.

All this is also showing her how serious I am that she quits now and forever.

TerryV's picture
Posts: 916
Joined: Jul 2011

I understand your frustration - how can someone diagnosed with cancer that can be directly related to smoking continue to smoke?  It's actually very understandable.  Smoking - for a smoker - calms them, keeps them busy, distracts them.  And many doctors don't get to crazy with encouraging an attempt to quit during treatment as it (Quitting) increases anxiety.

Smokers know that cigarettes are bad for them.  They also know there is no joy in cigarettes and that their life (and health) would be better without the cigarettes.

Your mother will get there.  Continue to encourage, but don't nag.  Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is a big challenge.  She will tackle the cigarette addiction as soon as she is able to, I'm sure.

Leave a package of nicotine patches on her counter, leave some nicotine gum another time.  Words aren't necessary.  Quiet support says a lot.

Best of luck!

PROUD wife to Nick, age 49
lost battle to fEC, June 19, 2012

Posts: 2
Joined: Apr 2013

Terribly sorry about what you're going through. I can't imagine how tough it is. A dear friend of mine was in the same boat. He was a smoker for 40 years (1 pack a day) and his doctor pretty much said "quit or you'll die". Being a smoker for that long, it isn't easy to quit on a fly. But my friend was really motivated (especially after the birth of his grand-daughter). I can tell you that it takes a lot of will power to quit after 40 years of addiction. It's almost as hard as breaking up a long-lived marriage. Smoking becomes a part of your life and to break it up means saying goodby to a part of you. In short, it's not easy. 


But my friend's determination motivated him to try alternatives since cold-turkey method didn't stand a chance. He started off with gums and patches but soon discovered they were essentially making him more frustrated. I think it was only after he tried e-cigarettes that he started leaning off cigarettes. He wasn't going through any treatments but he would have if he didn't stop smoking soon. Long story short, after using e-cigarettes for 4 months, he was confident that he had quit smoking forever. Thankfully his doctor approved of his condition and he didn't have to go through any treatment. He's now 59 and in decent shape for his age. 


I would encourage your mother to try herbal alternatives, meditation, and counseling. If her doctor allows nicotine intake, e-cigs would probably be the best and fastest way to help her quit smoking. What she can do is start off with e-cigs that have nicotine (ex. 1.8% nicotine) and then gradually lower her nicotine intake to 0% (read about this here http://ecigarettereviewed.com/nicotine-free-electronic-cigarette/). Essentially she'll still get the feeling of smoking but without any nicotine. Some resources to read about e-cigs(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_cigarette). Of course make sure her doctor approves of this. 


Hopefully things work out. Have faith! 

God bless,


Alexandra's picture
Posts: 1311
Joined: Jul 2012

I hope your mother is feeling better.

I am 45 years old and a life-long smoker, since age 12. 20 years ago I quit cold turkey when I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter and did not touch a cigarette till I gave birth. I was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer 11 months ago. My cancer is genetic (BRCA1+) and definitely not caused by smoking. I continued smoking throughout surgeries and chemo. While on chemo I actually smoked much more than normal because it helped me cope with nausea and depression.

I had many people including family members and doctors telling me to quit smoking. My mom who lives overseas made a point of calling me every day and telling me over and over how I will die if I don't give up nicotine. I appreciate everyone's concern, I understand the danger of smoking and it is my informed choice to continue. The same way I chose to quit during pregnancy for the sake of my child, I chose not to quit at the last stage of my life.

So at the risk of being ostrasized by the CSN non-smoking majority, I suggest to respect your mother's decision once you made your feelings about smoking known to her. 

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