Lung Cancer Reality May Help Kin Quit Smoking

A Duke physician is hoping that coping with a loved one's lung cancer will offer a "teachable moment" that helps smokers quit for good.

"This could be a time when they really would think about quitting smoking because they see the consequences in real life," Dr. Lori Bastian, an internist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, told Reuters Health.

But while patients' relatives have told Bastian and her colleagues that they're thinking about quitting, they also say it's the worst possible time to try, given the stress and anxiety of caring for a sick relative.

With this in mind, Bastian and her team have designed a telephone counseling program consisting of six half-hour sessions offered over 12 weeks that includes instruction on skills for coping with stress, such as relaxation techniques and guided imagery.

"These are things that people could do in the car, while they're waiting in the doctor's office, all those kinds of things," Bastian said.

The researchers are identifying participants for their study by asking lung cancer patients being treated at Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Durham VA Medical Center whether they have a relative who smokes who would be willing to try to quit.

Study participants are given brochures and a cassette with information on the dangers of smoking and advice on quitting, along with nicotine patches. Half of them will also receive the counseling sessions.

Bastian and her team hope to enroll 480 people in the study, and have signed up 340 so far. Participants will be followed for one year after the 12-week program, and self-reports of smoking cessation success will be checked with saliva tests.

Bastian and her colleagues have found just 15 percent of smokers give up cigarettes when a relative is diagnosed with lung cancer. They are hoping that the program could bring that percentage up to 30 percent or 40 percent.

"Overall our feedback has been good," Bastian said. "We're hopeful." Enditem