Saturday, January 21, 2012

Make this a smoke free new year

I can’t shake off this cough doctor, said a young looking woman in her mid-thirties. She told me that her cough has been persisting for six weeks. She had tried over-the counter remedies. When that did not work she went to a medical clinic where they gave her antibiotics but nothing seem to work. I asked her if she smoked. She said no. Then she added, ‘I had quit last week’.
She did not have a fever and her blood pressure was slightly elevated. Nothing too remarkable I thought; people can be a bit nervous when they come to see a doctor. I listened to her lungs. Lungs were mostly clear except for some coarse respiratory sounds in one area of her lung.
I told her that I could not tell her what was causing her cough just yet. Perhaps a chest X-ray might help. The X-ray showed a nodular mass in her lungs. CT scan confirmed my worse fear. She had lung cancer. The cancer in her lung was causing an obstruction to her airways, leading to the persistent cough. I learnt that she had smoked heavily for the past 20 years and quit recently due to persistent coughing

Cigarette smoking causes 1 in 5 deaths in the United States. Most of us know that smoking leads to crippling diseases such as lung cancer and other diseases of the lung and heart and of course stroke. It saddens me to observe death and disability particularly in cases where it could have been prevented. Yet smoking still continues to take a heavy toll on people in the United States and elsewhere.

Quitting smoking may not be easy but the rewards are significant and some of them immediate; such as extra money in your pocket and improvement in your health. Your blood carbon monoxide level drops to normal in 12 hours. Within 3 months your lung function improves. Your risk of coronary artery disease is half that of a smoker in one year. In five years your stroke risk is reduced. In addition, the economic rewards are significant. Think of all the money you could be saving. I tell my patients to make a list of other things they may be able to afford with the savings.

When I talk to patient about smoking cessation, they tell me that they are worried that they will gain weight when they quit smoking. I tell them that although it is common, weight gain after quitting smoking is not a sure thing. There are some steps you can take to reduce weight gain (good diet, exercise). A good smoking cessation plan should also have a strategy in place to fight weight gain.

So are you ready to quit smoking? Good news is that more assistance is available now to help you quit smoking. There are nicotine replacement products such as nicotine gums, patches, lozenges and sprays. Here, the idea is to gradually taper the dosage of nicotine, without the harmful chemicals of cigarette smoke. These medicines are safe for most people and generally double the chances of quitting and staying quit. Additionally, there are prescription medicines such as Zyban and Chantix which can help you quit. These medicines do have side-effects. I would recommend that you discuss with your physician which of the above methods may work for you. This is a new year. Make this the year you quit smoking!

Acknowledgement: Some of the material for the essay was extracted from American Cancer Society’s booklet ‘Set yourself free’.

You may order this booklet for free by calling 800-227-2345 or you may pick up a copy at Allies Medical, 2 Bridgewater Road # 100, Farmington, CT 06032. Phone 860-678-9900.