University of Stirling, Health Sciences

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The importance of talking about Smoking in the context of Cancer

Photo of Prof Mary Wells

Professor Mary Wells

Our recent research highlights the importance of understanding the multiple factors which influence continued smoking in people affected by cancer.  It also shows that engaging patients and families in discussion about smoking within the context of a cancer diagnosis is acceptable, but that an individualised and integrated approach to smoking cessation across the whole cancer journey is needed.

Research evidence illustrates the value of cessation for patients’ treatment outcomes, survival and future health.  Last month we held two public engagement sessions in Dundee as part of the NMAHP Research Unit’s CSO-funded ‘Cancer & Smoking Cessation Study’.  Over the past 18 months this has been exploring key factors likely to increase uptake of smoking cessation services among families, within the context of a recent cancer diagnosis.  Researchers Tricia Aitchison and Fiona Harris have conducted more than 65 in-depth interviews with patients, relatives and health professionals in Tayside and Forth Valley.

The ‘Talking about smoking and cancer: Help us design better services’ sessions brought together a range of people.  Participants included consultant oncologists, cancer nurse specialists, radiographers, smoking cessation advisors, charity representatives and health promotion staff – as well as a small number of patients and family members who had taken part in interviews for the study.  An advert had also been placed in the local Courier newspaper to invite members of the public to attend.

The aim of the public engagement sessions was not only to present key findings from the study but also to provide opportunity for participants to suggest, discuss and evaluate ideas for future interventions.  Three short, 10-minute presentations on study findings were followed by small group discussions facilitated by members of the study Steering Group.

The presentations were:

  • Talking About Smoking: What patients, family members and health professionals bring to conversations about smoking in the context of cancer;
  • Moving from talking about smoking to doing something about it: What happens next? and
  • What opportunities are there for intervention and what might these look like?

They certainly seemed to stimulate lots of talking and interaction within the groups!

Our study findings highlight that potential opportunities for talking to patients and families about smoking may often be missed by healthcare professionals.  There was consensus among the participants at our event that barriers to discussing and addressing smoking need to be overcome so that patients are given effective cessation advice and support throughout their care journey.

Professor Mary Wells, University of Stirling, School of Health Sciences
4 February 2015

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