Smoking Causes Greater Pain in Cancer Patients

By Lauren Cooperman

There is a new reason to quit smoking.  A research study conducted by Texas A & M University suggests that cancer patients who smoke suffer from greater pain than those who are non-smokers, or those who are former smokers.

Lead researcher Joseph W. Ditre, PhD, stated that it was important to gather their research from a variety of types and progressions of cancer.  “To elucidate important relations between pain and smoking among persons with cancer, and to identify prospective targets for intervention, it is necessary to build upon past findings by examining smoking status and pain reporting in greater detail, across a wider range of cancer patients.”

The cross-sectional study surveyed 224 patients with a variety of types and stages of cancer.  Patients were asked to self-measure on a sliding scale their pain severity, pain-related distress, and pain-related interference.  Overall, patients who were current smokers endured more severe pain than non-smokers.  A correlation between the amount of time elapsed from former smokers to the severity of pain experienced was also found, suggesting that quitting smoking can reduce the amount of pain over time. suggests that the severity of pain being felt by cancer patients that are smokers compared to non-smokers of former-smokers is directly related to the nicotine found in cigarettes.  “Nicotine causes a narrowing of the arteries and greatly reduces the heart and lung’s efficiency in delivering oxygen to the body.  This can contribute to the development of muscular cramps.  Smoking also slows healing, increases heart rate and blood pressure, and contributes to fatigue and chronic pain.”

“Clinicians must do more to assist cancer patients to quit smoking after their diagnosis,” stated Lori Bastian, MD, in an accompanying commentary.  “Although more research is needed to understand the mechanisms that relate nicotine to pain, physicians should aggressively promote smoking cessation among cancer patients.  Preliminary findings suggest that smoking cessation will improve the overall treatment response and quality of life.”

Although quitting is not easy, smoking cessations, such as Chantix, have proven to be great assistance in kicking the habit.  According to the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC), there are many benefits associated with cessation including improved lung function and reduced respiratory symptoms.