More Pain, No Gain

Cancer patients who continue to smoke experience greater pain: study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Smoking not only increases cancer and mortality risk, it also causes more pain in those who continue smoking after diagnosed with cancer.

Researchers at Texas A&M University found that for a wide range of cancer types (stages I to IV), smoking was linked to increased pain severity that interferes more with a patient's daily life.

"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, and with regard to potential benefits of quitting smoking," said lead investigator Joseph W. Ditre, PhD, Department of Psychology at Texas A&M.

Investigators surveyed 224 patients with a range of cancer types, asking patients to complete reports about pain severity, pain-related distress and pain-related interference. Patients also completed a demographics questionnaire. The survey found current smokers experienced more severe pain and more interference from pain than never-smokers and former smokers. Among former smokers, there was an inverse relation between pain and the number of years since quitting, suggesting that quitting smoking may reduce pain associated with cancer as time passes.

"Although more research is needed to understand the mechanisms that relate nicotine to pain, physicians should aggressively promote smoking cessation among cancer patients," said Lori Bastian, MD, Durham VA Medical Center and Department of Internal Medicine, Duke University, writing in an accompanying commentary. "Preliminary findings suggest that smoking cessation will improve the overall treatment response and quality of life."

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Review Date: 
December 22, 2010
Last Updated:
August 31, 2011