Background: Patients with head and neck cancer who continue to smoke after diagnosis and treatment are more likely than patients who quit to experience tumor recurrence and second primary malignancies. Therefore, information about patients' smoking status and the factors associated with continued tobacco use are important considerations in the comprehensive care patients with head and neck cancer.
Methods: Study participants were 144 patients with newly diagnosed squamous cell carcinomas of the upper aerodigestive tract who underwent surgical treatment, with or without postoperative radiotherapy or chemotherapy, 3-15 months before assessment of their postoperative tobacco use.
Results: Among the 74 patients who had smoked in the year before diagnosis, 35% reported continued tobacco use after surgery. Compared with patients who abstained from smoking, patients who continued to use tobacco were less likely to have received postoperative radiotherapy, to have had less extensive disease, to have had oral cavity disease, and to have had higher levels of education. Hierarchical regression analysis indicated that most of the explained variance in smoking status could be accounted for on the first step of analysis by disease site. Interest in smoking cessation was high, and most patients made multiple attempts to quit.
Conclusions: Although the diagnosis of a tobacco-related malignancy clearly represents a strong catalyst for smoking cessation, a sizable subgroup of patients continue to smoke. Patients with less severe disease who undergo less extensive treatment are particularly at risk for continued tobacco use. These data highlight the importance of developing smoking cessation interventions designed to meet the demographic, disease, treatment, and tobacco-use characteristics of this patient population.