Smoking cessation counseling successful after lung cancer screening

02/16/17

Telephone-based smoking cessation counseling given immediately after lung cancer screening to individuals who smoke can be effective at helping them quit, according to research published in the journal Lung Cancer (April 2017;56[1]:125-134).

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Lung cancer screening recommendations issued by the US Preventive Services Task Force suggest that adults aged 55-80 years who have accumulated a minimum of 30 pack-years (one pack per day for 30 years) should undergo an annual low-dose computed tomography (CT) lung cancer screening test. The National Institute of Health has recommended that effective smoking cessation programs should be a follow-up component of screening programs and has funded research to develop cessation strategies.

Kathryn L Taylor, PhD, behavioral scientist, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, and colleagues conducted a study to explore the impact of screening on smoking cessation and readiness to quit smoking. Researchers sampled 92 current smokers from 3 different locations to receive either telephone counseling or standard of care (free or low-cost cessation resources) after screening. Participants were randomized to either group, consisting of an equal number of participants with abnormal screening findings, minor abnormalities, and normal results. None of the participants were diagnosed with lung cancer after screening.

Participants in the telephone-counseling group were given six 15-minute counseling sessions over the three months after screening. At the end of this period, a nicotine saliva test was given to those who reported quitting in order to confirm.

Results of the study showed that approximately 20% of all participants were ready to quit smoking within the first month after screening, 45% were ready within the next 6 months, and 35% were not thinking of stopping. At the 1-month follow-up, 8 (17%) participants in the telephone-counseling group had verifiably quit, compared with 2 (4%) participants in the standard of care group.

Researchers concluded that lung cancer screening may serve as a “teachable moment” for smoking cessation. They suggest that a smoking cessation trial is a feasible option, especially due to its potential to reach long-term smokers at considerably high risk for lung cancer.