That’s the verdict of a recent study that revealed almost half of the more than 3,000 people who entered MD Anderson’s Tobacco Treatment Program have quit tobacco successfully. Other smoking cessation programs, by comparison, only boast success rates of around 20%.
“Patients deserve the absolute best opportunity we can give them to quit smoking,” says Paul Cinciripini, Ph.D., chair of Behavioral Science and director of the program. “Based on our findings, we recommend offering cancer patients who smoke a comprehensive smoking cessation program to accompany their other treatment.”
The secret of the MD Anderson program’s success, he says, lies in its approach, which uses a combination of nicotine-replacement therapy, medication and eight to 12 weeks of behavioral counseling to help smokers kick the habit. The comprehensive program also offers participants treatment for underlying psychiatric conditions, such as depression, anxiety and insomnia, which can make it harder to quit.
Patients deserve the absolute best opportunity we can give them to quit smoking.
Quitting smoking has immediate benefits for cancer patients
The payoff for cancer patients who quit smoking at the time of diagnosis is indisputable, Cinciripini says: Their chances of survival immediately improve by 30% to 40%. Quitting can also make their treatments more effective and reduce their chances of relapsing or developing a secondary cancer.
“Quitting smoking doesn’t just add years, it adds quality years to your life,” notes Cinciripini. “It’s the most cost-effective cancer prevention strategy we have.”
Sometimes, patients mistakenly assume they can’t quit, because they’ve already tried several times on their own without success.
“We let them know that most people who quit make numerous attempts before succeeding,” says Diane Beneventi, Ph.D., assistant professor of Behavioral Science and the program’s clinical director. “And we’re here to make it easier.”
Going mobile making quitting smoking easier
Last year, the Tobacco Treatment Program began offering counseling sessions through live video conferencing to make these meetings more convenient. The sessions are available through a mobile app that patients can access from anywhere. The video conferencing option has already proven popular among patients.
“It grew exponentially,” says Maher Karam-Hage, M.D., professor of Behavioral Science and medical director of the Tobacco Treatment Program. “We started video conferencing with two or three evaluations the first month and now a quarter of our patients contact us from their homes. Preliminary data indicates that patients treated remotely are able to quit at similar rates to those coming in for treatment in person.”
The team expects the number of patients using the remote video option to grow over the next year. They’re also planning to open a mobile smoking cessation clinical trial this year for current smokers living anywhere in Texas.
Our team has world-renowned tobacco treatment experts, and now they’re spreading their version of treating tobacco addiction beyond our walls.
Training empowers other health care providers
To help even more smokers kick the habit, experts at MD Anderson have begun teaching health care providers at other institutions to help their patients quit. The initiative, named the Certified Tobacco Treatment Training Program, is a joint effort between EndTobacco® and the Behavioral Science department. It’s one of only 22 courses in the U.S. – and the only one in Texas – accredited by the Council for Tobacco Treatment Training Programs to deliver tobacco treatment specialist training and certification.
“Our team has world-renowned tobacco treatment experts, and now they’re spreading their version of treating tobacco addiction beyond our walls,” says Jennifer Cofer, director of EndTobacco, an initiative of the cancer prevention and control platform of MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program®.
Since the training program began, 455 people have completed the course, and 92% have become certified tobacco treatment specialists. Participants include psychologists, psychiatrists, case managers, social work counselors, respiratory therapists, registered nurses and community health educators. They work in settings ranging from community-based health centers to large health care systems.
“Many of the people we’re training will become the go-to people for tobacco treatment at their hospitals or clinics,” Cinciripini says. “Physicians want to help their patients stop smoking, but they don’t necessarily have the time or training to do that. Having someone in their immediate practice who can deliver that service is a win-win.”
The four-day course is offered three times a year at MD Anderson. It’s also hosted at other locations in the U.S.
“I learned new and alternative ways to approach tobacco cessation treatment,” says Cassie Richardson, a clinical pharmacy specialist who attended the first training. “Now I’m putting my knowledge to use by helping smokers become ex-smokers.”
After completing the training and obtaining certification, specialists can earn a national credential from the Association for Addiction Professionals by acquiring 240 hours of clinical or community practice. Many also take advantage of MD Anderson’s free, weekly tele-mentoring program, Project TEACH, where they can discuss difficult cases and continue to learn from each other and program leaders, while earning continuing education credits.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.