Lung cancer screening as a teachable moment for smoking cessation

Lung Cancer. 2007 Apr;56(1):125-34. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2006.11.015. Epub 2006 Dec 28.


Background: Lung cancer screening may serve as a 'teachable moment' for smoking cessation, a brief period in which motivation to stop smoking is enhanced. Within the context of two NCI-funded randomized lung screening trials, we conducted an ancillary study to explore the impact of screening on smoking cessation and readiness to stop smoking.

Methods: We accrued a sample of current and former smokers participating at the Georgetown University site of the Lung Screening Study (LSS; N=144) and of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST; N=169). In each sample, we assessed reasons for trial participation, interest in smoking cessation interventions, motivations for stopping smoking, and the impact of undergoing screening on tobacco use and readiness to stop smoking. Telephone interviews were conducted prior to screening, and 1-month following receipt of the screening result. The samples were analyzed separately due to differences in age and level of nicotine dependence.

Results: The majority of the findings were consistent across the two samples. Frequently endorsed reasons for trial participation among both current and former smokers included psychological reasons (e.g., wanting peace of mind about lung cancer) and altruism (e.g., wanting to make a contribution to science). Nicotine replacement therapy and free counseling were the cessation methods that were of most interest, and fear of lung health problems was the most frequently endorsed motivation for quitting smoking. Regarding readiness to stop smoking, approximately 20% were ready to stop in the next 30 days, 45% were ready to stop in the next 6 months, while 35% were not thinking of stopping. At the follow-up, 7% of current smokers at baseline reported abstinence, and 4% of former smokers at baseline reported having relapsed. The findings differed across the two samples when considering the readiness to quit outcome. At the 1-month follow-up of the NLST sample, participants became more ready to stop smoking (p<.05). Screening result did not moderate this finding. In the LSS sample, among younger participants (<or=64), an abnormal screening result was significantly associated with becoming more ready to stop smoking, whereas a normal result was associated with becoming less ready to stop smoking (p=.02).

Conclusions: The current findings demonstrated the feasibility of enrolling lung screening participants into a smoking-related research study, as well as the high level of interest in stopping smoking and in smoking cessation interventions. These data indicate that lung cancer screening may serve as a teachable moment for smoking cessation, and suggest that a smoking cessation trial within the context of lung cancer screening is feasible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Smoking Cessation*