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Most doctors don't help lung cancer patients quit smoking

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WEDNESDAY, April 3 (HealthDay News) -- Although doctors treating people with lung cancer are aware of the importance of kicking the smoking habit, most don't routinely offer this type of assistance to their patients, according to new research.

A survey conducted by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) revealed many doctors do not feel prepared to effectively help their cancer patients stop smoking.

"This is the largest assessment of tobacco assessment, cessation and perceptions of tobacco use by physicians who treat cancer patients," study author Dr. Graham Warren, vice chair for research in radiation oncology at the Medical University of South Carolina, said in an IASLC news release.

"Tobacco use affects outcomes for virtually all cancer patients by increasing mortality, treatment complications, and other adverse health outcomes such as heart disease. Stopping tobacco use may be the most important activity a cancer patient can do to improve their chances of successful cancer treatment," he said.

The online survey conducted in 2012 involved 1,500 doctors who are IASLC members. The doctors were asked about how they practice medicine as well as their views on tobacco cessation among their patients.

The survey results showed that more than 90 percent of the doctors questioned believe that current smoking has an effect on a patients' treatment and that help to quit smoking should be a routine part of care for those with lung cancer.

However, the research revealed that only 39 percent of the doctors polled regularly provide their patients with assistance to quit smoking. The survey also found that doctors believe their patients would not be open to tobacco cessation treatment.

"As clinicians and researchers, we must work to improve access to tobacco cessation resources and improve effective methods of tobacco cessation for cancer patients," Warren stated in the news release.

The survey was a collaborative effort that also included researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the Medical University of South Carolina, Yale University and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Study co-author, Dr. Ellen Gritz, chair of the department of behavioral science at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, pointed out that "the fact that several institutions worked together to assess physician practice is a very positive step. Hopefully, we can continue to make progress by bringing experts in diverse fields together and increase our ability to address adverse health behaviors, such as tobacco use, in cancer patients," noted Gritz, who is also a member of the Institute of Medicine.

Dr. Carolyn Dresler, member of the IASLC Board of Directors and the Tobacco Control and Smoking Cessation Committee, commented on the importance of the findings. "Clearly there is a need to increase tobacco cessation assistance for cancer patients," she said in the news release. "This study really helps us better understand the barriers to implementing tobacco cessation and gives us a target to improve cessation support."

The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.