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Abstract

The role of tobacco in the etiology of upper aerodigestive tract carcinomas is well established. Smoking decreases the effectiveness of cancer therapy and increases the risk of all treatment modalities. Smoking adversely affects the general health of the cancer survivor and places the patient at risk of developing additional primary tumors. The smoking habits of head and neck cancer patients were evaluated using a questionnaire administered at two tertiary head and neck cancer centers. Demographic factors, level of exposure, tumor stage and location, treatment modalities, concomitant alcohol use, and cessation methods were examined. Results demonstrate a high rate of smoking cessation at the time of cancer diagnosis. Significant demographic factors were not identified. Physical barriers to continued smoking because of cancer treatment as well as counseling at the time of tumor diagnosis were the most effective deterrents to continued tobacco use. Heavy alcohol use was a negative predictor of smoking cessation. Pharmacologic aids alone were found to be of no value. This study demonstrates the difficulties with smoking cessation in head and neck cancer patients, and emphasizes the importance of intervention by the otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon.