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  • Australian oncologists have been told they can do better to help cancer patients quit smoking

    Author: AAP

New research shows oncologists can do more to encourage cancer patients to quit smoking during treatment in order to improve their outcomes.

A survey of 700 Australian medical and radiation oncologists found that only half regularly ask about smoking in follow-up consultations, and less than 20 per cent regularly refer their patients on to support services.

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The University of Newcastle research, conducted in collaboration with the Cancer Institute of NSW and Cancer Council NSW, also found that oncologists strongly prefer smoking cessation interventions to be managed by other health workers, citing a lack of time, training and resources as a major barrier for their lack of support.

Lead researcher and oncologist Dr Fiona Day says the survey was designed to find out how well oncologists were assisting their patients to quit smoking and they have shown they can be doing more.

"We're not failing completely but there is significant room for improvement," said Dr Day.


Dr Day stressed this is not about laying blame but she does believe oncologists should play a key role in smoking cessation efforts.

"The closeness of a relationship between an oncologist and their patients really fosters having these hard conversations, and in my experience encouragement is a big part of what oncologists do in their daily practice," said Dr Day.

"We are supporting them through risky treatments with a lot of side-effects, things that are quite frightening. If we can do that and motivate and encourage them to conquer those things then we can certainly find a reasonable amount of time to continue to motivate them on this important issue as well," she said.

Smoking is a major risk factor for several cancers and the research shows even after a cancer diagnosis smoking can have significant impact on a patients survival prospects.

Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Sanchia Aranda warns the harms of smoking during cancer treatment can be severe.

"Continued smoking in cancer patients affects treatment efficacy and overall survival," said Professor Sanchia Aranada, CEO at Cancer Council Australia.

"Cancer patients who smoke are also at risk of treatment complications and higher hospitalisation rates during cancer treatment, likelihood of cancer recurrence, and significantly lower survival rates, so it's really important that the healthy system supports them in kicking the habit to achieve better outcomes," she said.


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