Of all the cancers, lung cancer is claiming the most lives of men and women every year in the United States. If you are a smoker, then it likely concerns you that smokers have the greatest risk of developing lung cancer according to the CDC. The good news though is that even after a lifetime of smoking, you can substantially reduce your risk of getting lung cancer if you stop smoking now. This article explores practical tips that can help you to quit smoking and as a result, reduce your lung cancer risk.
What Practical Steps Can Smokers Take to Reduce Their Lung Cancer Risk?
- Go Cold Turkey or Cut Your Tobacco Consumption in Half
- Eliminate the Smoking Temptations
- Clean House
- Develop Other New Habits
- Be Mindful of Smoking Triggers
- Rally Support
- Treat Yourself
Go Cold Turkey or Cut Your Tobacco Consumption in Half
A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that although quitting smoking decreased lung cancer risk, there was also a benefit to cutting tobacco consumption in half. They found that there was a 27% decrease in lung cancer among those participants who reduced their smoking by 62%. JAMA also reported a 90% reduction in cancer risk for those who quit smoking before middle age. Therefore, for the greatest lung cancer risk reduction, you should quit today. But if you are not ready to go cold turkey just yet, then at least aim for reducing the amount you smoke daily while you work on making a plan for quitting in the coming days and weeks.
Eliminate the Smoking Temptations
Naturally, you need to eliminate every trace of the tobacco product you are trying to quit. That means, cleaning out drawers, nightstands, garage workspaces, any possible place that even one singular cigarette or cigar might be lurking. Even though you may want to prove your willpower by keeping a stray around, recognize that smoking is one of the toughest addictions that exists and there is no time to waste with testing the waters. If your significant other or housemate is a smoker and not interested in joining you in this endeavor, insist that they keep all smoking paraphernalia out of your sight and that smoking be done out of the house only.
In addition to ridding yourself of all tobacco products, give yourself a fresh start by cleaning house. Over the years you may not realize the stench that smoking has left behind, in your home, on your clothes and in your car. As your sense of smell becomes sharper after quitting smoking, you may even become more sensitive to the smell of cigarettes on others. Depending on your time and finances you may consider cleaning your carpets, upholstery, curtains and even putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls. After investing in this clean start, it may make you think twice about reaching for that pack of cigarettes again.
Develop Other New Habits
Researchers debate on how long it actually takes to develop a new habit and it is commonly believed that you need at least two months to ingrain a new habit in your life. As you attempt to rid yourself of this old smoking habit, replace it with healthier and enjoyable activities. Think about the times of day that you feel the need to smoke and replace that old activity with a new one. Do not expect that this will be easy. The first few days to weeks are going to be the most challenging. But distracting yourself with a new healthier habit may help you to navigate this time. Instead of smoking you could try;
- Playing a game on your phone
- Calling or messaging a friend
- Taking a walk or stroll
- Go to the gym
- Go shopping
Be Mindful of Smoking Triggers
Think ahead about potential triggers, what environments or times of day you feel the need to smoke? Is it first thing in the morning? Try to get out of the house or to walk around the block. Is it while on break with co-workers? Then aim to avoid those break area spots popular for smoke breaks and look to find another spot to take your breaks. Do you typically smoke while drinking coffee or having a beer. Substitute these potential triggers for other things while you work through the cravings.
Don’t go it alone. Tell your friends, family and co-workers about your efforts and include them on the progress you are making and challenges that you are experiencing. You may be surprised to learn of others who are trying to quit as well and be able to help one another. You may also consider joining Freedom From Smoking, an initiative by the American Lung Association that offers an online support group, group clinics, a helpline and more.
Calculate the expense and put it to paper, how much you will be saving by not smoking. CNN Money rates smoking as one of the biggest money wasters and estimates that many smokers spend on average $70 weekly or $280 a month on their habit. That comes to $3,360 a year. Imagine the ways you could spend that extra money on yourself. It might be a great incentive to save for that trip or cruise you’ve been dreaming of taking. Or this could be the perfect opportunity for you to get into that hobby or sport that your smoking habit and lungs could not tolerate before.
Related Reading: Reduce Lung Cancer Risk with the Great American Smokeout
Don’t Give Up
Set backs are normal and will likely be part of your experience. Don’t use a relapse as an excuse to give up but learn from it. It is never a failure as long as you keep trying and don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings and frustrations with a trusted friend.
Quitting smoking will be one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and to those that love you. Not only will you reduce your lung cancer risk but will also help your body to heal from other illnesses and protect yourself from other forms of cancer. At Arizona Oncology, our expert and compassionate oncologist are committed to helping you achieve the highest quality of life while you navigate your cancer treatment.
Originally posted in October 2017. Updated January 2020.