(BPT) - One in 16 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer during their lifetime. While anyone can get lung cancer, there is one risk factor that is more likely to cause lung cancer than any other, contributing to 85-90% of cases: a history of smoking.
The single most impactful decision you can make to reduce your risk of developing lung cancer is to stop smoking today. Even lifetime smokers can substantially reduce their risk by choosing to quit now.
Meghan Lawless Keim, PA-C, an advanced practice provider in Minnesota Oncology’s Thoracic Oncology and Surgery department, frequently assists patients with smoking cessation and lung cancer screenings. Here she shares seven actionable tips to get you started on the road to a smoke-free future.
1. Reduce use of tobacco products
If the cold-turkey approach is overwhelming for you or you’ve tried before without success, reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke in a day can be a helpful strategy. Smoking less often can be the foundation to quit gradually. Even if you never quit but you achieve a 50% reduction in the number of cigarettes you smoke per day, you’ll significantly reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. If you do feel ready to quit smoking, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to your primary care provider or seek out Tobacco Cessation Counseling providers for recommendations for a personalized plan to quit smoking.
2. Eliminate temptations to smoke
Keeping cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays in the home can make it harder to quit. Take time to go through your house and vehicle. Remove everything that tempts you and makes it easy to pick up the habit again. If your spouse, partner or roommate smokes (and doesn’t plan on quitting), ask them to keep their cigarettes and lighters hidden from you and to step outside to smoke.
3. Clean house to remove tobacco products
If you’ve smoked inside your home, it’s likely that there’s smoke on the walls, in the upholstery, in the carpet and in your clothes, even though you may not smell it. In fact, smoking causes loss of smell over time, which typically returns upon cessation. Washing your walls, carpets, bedding, clothing and upholstery — and perhaps even applying a fresh coat of paint — can help you start with a clean slate. You’ll think twice about picking up a cigarette when you’ve worked so hard to freshen up your home.
4. Replace smoking with healthier routines
If you’ve been smoking for a while, you’ve likely developed routines. Perhaps whenever you have a cup of coffee you also have a cigarette. Instead, create new, healthy habits and routines to cope with a craving, like chew a piece of gum, play a game on your phone, do a craft, take a walk or call a friend. Remember, preventing boredom is important for nearly everyone who wants to quit smoking, so be sure to stay busy with work and hobbies.
5. Recognize triggers that tempt you to smoke
When do you feel the strongest temptation to smoke? Is it when you’re drinking? When you take your break at work? When you get into a fight with your significant other? When you’re bored? Once you know your triggers, you can build a strategy for avoiding and/or coping with those triggers. For example, you might elect to take your break elsewhere and bring a book.
6. Get support from others who've quit smoking
Knowing that others have quit successfully and still lead a fulfilling and enjoyable life is critically important when you’re on your journey. Surround yourself with people who support your efforts and encourage you along the way. Join a smoking cessation support group, reach out to your state quit line, and involve friends, family and coworkers in your journey. You may want to join Freedom From Smoking, established by the American Lung Association, which includes many resources.
7. Reward yourself for not smoking
Use some of the money you save when you quit smoking to build in periodic rewards for yourself. Small rewards can keep you motivated and give you something in return when you learn to cope with temptation in healthy ways. A great way to reward yourself without developing a new unhealthy habit (overspending) is to calculate how much you’ve saved each day, and when you reach certain milestones use a portion you’ve determined in advance for something fun.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. It’s important to have realistic expectations about your journey to quit smoking. Some days you’ll struggle and others will be easier. Call a helpline to talk through cravings when other tactics aren't working. Only you can reduce your lung cancer risk.