Cancer and smoking cessation communities come together to reduce smoking in cancer patients

Canadian Partnership Against Cancer funding initiatives in 8 provinces and territories

TORONTO — The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer is funding provinces and territories across Canada to build or expand programs that help cancer patients quit smoking, which can improve their cancer treatments and recovery.

“It’s never too late to quit,” said Dr. Heather Bryant, Vice-President of Cancer Control at the Partnership. “Cancer patients can be highly motivated to give up smoking, especially when they learn that it can improve their chances of survival. But they need support. Linking cancer care with smoking cessation means another source of support and encouragement will be there when they need it.”

A 2013 review found that, because smoking reduces the effectiveness of many cancer treatments and increases the likelihood of complications and death in cancer patients, quitting smoking can be as beneficial to survival as some cutting-edge cancer therapies.

Evidence suggests that the risk of dying from cancer could be lowered by 30-40% by quitting smoking at the time of diagnosis. Quitting smoking can also improve post-surgical wound healing and treatment response, lower the risk of respiratory complications, and may decrease the possibility of recurrence of a second primary cancer.

“Until recently, most health-care providers have assumed that trying to get patients to stop smoking after a diagnosis of cancer would not make a difference to treatment outcomes and that patients would be resistant to quitting,” said Dr. Bill Evans, a medical oncologist and Professor Emeritus at McMaster University. “On both accounts, the evidence is now quite compelling to the contrary. The outcomes of treatment can be negatively impacted by continued smoking and the toxicities of treatment are frequently greater. And the majority of patients want help to quit.”

While evidence-based approaches to smoking cessation and relapse prevention exist in Canada, these services are rarely offered to cancer patients in cancer care settings, despite indications that cancer patients want support to quit.

Programs are funded to plan, implement or evaluate smoking cessation programs embedded within cancer care. The Northwest Territories and Nunavut will each receive funding to plan new smoking cessation programs to better support cancer patients. In the Northwest Territories, this will be done through sharing circles. Nunavut, which has the highest smoking rates in Canada at 61% of Nunavummiut over the age of 12, will look at ways to link patients with quit smoking programs in their home communities.

Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia will develop plans for future smoking cessation programs for cancer patients, while Ontario, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island will expand support to cancer patients in quitting smoking. Manitoba will evaluate its model for supporting cancer patients who want to quit smoking, which is considered a leading practice in Canada.

The funding follows the Partnership’s commitment to collaboration by catalyzing activities around smoking cessation and creating opportunities to share knowledge and best practices.

Funding for the programs, totalling $1.225 million, runs until March 2017.


For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Karen Palmer
Canadian Partnership Against Cancer
(647) 388-9647

About the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer works with Canada’s cancer community to reduce the burden of cancer on Canadians. Grounded in and informed by the experiences of those affected by cancer, the organization works with partners to support multi-jurisdictional uptake of evidence that will help to optimize cancer control planning and drive improvements in quality of practice across Canada. Through sustained effort and a focus on the cancer continuum, the organization supports the work of the collective cancer community in achieving long-term population outcomes: reduced incidence of cancer, less likelihood of Canadians dying from cancer, and an enhanced quality of life of those affected by cancer.