Can Quitting Smoking Easily Be a Symptom of Lung Cancer?

An article in the most recent issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology detailed a study on patients who quit smoking with ease. The study showed that patients whose experience in quitting smoking had few or no troubles also developed lung cancer within three years of quitting. The study subjects quit smoking well before they exhibited any sings of the disease, which has convinced researchers that the comparative easiness of how the patients were able to quit could also be a symptom of lung cancer itself.

Researchers at the Thomas Jefferson University Medical Center in Philadelphia have hypothesized that active lung cancer cells release a compound that counteracts the body’s dependence on nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco. Since one of the primary obstacles that smokers come across when attempting to quit smoking is nicotine addiction, the hardest part of quitting becomes much easier, albeit at a severe cost to the patient’s health.

The study looked at the behavior 115 former smokers who were later diagnosed with lung cancer. Out of those 115, 55 had gone through some type of program to quit smoking, such as nicotine gums or patches, well before they were diagnosed with the disease, with 31 reporting that they quit with ease. The data revealed that patients who had stopped smoking with very little or no difficulty showed symptoms of lung cancer in just over two years.

Dr. Barbara Campling and her team of researchers conducted the tests with patients at the Philadelphia Veterans Hospital. Dr. Campling and her group ascertained the level of the patient’s nicotine addiction through an interview and psychological test. The data from those tests showed that the patients who said they quit with ease were just as addicted to nicotine as those who either quit with difficulty or continued to smoke.

Dr. Campling also pointed out that her team’s findings might refute much of the popular belief behind smoking cessation and lung cancer. Many doctors previously believed that smokers eventually quit due to the visible symptoms of lung cancer, including heavy coughing and other respiratory issues, which made the task of inhaling the smoke more difficult.

The findings of this new study, despite the limited number of participants, have opened up other ideas on how to detect lung cancer in smokers. The news may lead to smokers who suddenly lose their cravings for nicotine to visit a doctor and determine if they are undergoing the early stages of lung cancer. As with most cancers, early detection is a key to any possible recovery.

The study may also lead to other potential applications for smoking cessation programs. If scientists can isolate the agent that induces the patients in the study to quit smoking immediately and painlessly, such a discovery could lead to new forms of therapy to help smokers quit the habit much easier.

Dr. Campling also suggests that smokers do not take the findings as a justification for continuing to smoke. She said that a smoker who does not consider quitting based on her study has “the absolutely wrong interpretation” of the findings.

Sources:
http://topnews.net.nz/reports/212505-ease-quitting-linked-lung-cancer
http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20110307_If_quitting_comes_easy.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/07/AR2011030703659.html

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