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November 18, 2021

Tobacco cessation program marks three successful years

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Tobacco cessation program marks three successful years

This month is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and this week is the “Great American Smokeout.” One program at IU Health is celebrating three years of patients going tobacco free.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes,

The numbers tell the story:

  • The American Cancer Society reports about 235,760 new cases of lung cancer (119,100 in men and 116,660 in women) in the United States this year.
  • About 131,880 deaths from lung cancer (69,410 in men and 62,470 in women)
  • Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, making up almost 25% of all cancer deaths.
  • Overall, the chance that a man will develop lung cancer in his lifetime is about one in 15; for a woman, the risk is about one in 17.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests it can take up to 11 attempts to quit smoking. Others studies report even higher numbers.

Here’s the good news – on Nov. 18, 1976 – the California Division of the American Cancer Society got nearly 1 million people to quit smoking in a single day. That marked the first widespread event that occurs the same day annually around the country known as “The Great American Smokeout.” And with lung cancer cases on the rise, more and more healthcare providers are creating tobacco cessation programs.

Smoking is not the only cause of lung cancer; however research indicates it is a leading cause of lung cancer, attributing to between 80-90 percent of all deaths.

A team of providers – including behavioral health providers - at IU Health has launched programs for tobacco screening and to provide better access to treatment. One of those programs celebrates three years of success this month – the IU Health Simon Cancer Center Treatment Program.

The first patient, who turns 70 this month, began smoking in high school. She smoked three packs a day and was diagnosed with lung cancer in August of 2018. Her treatment included several rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Her role as a mother and grandmother gave her the desire to quit smoking.

That first patient is one of 250 who have quit tobacco use since the program began, said Danielle Barwise, a social worker and tobacco treatment specialist.

A member of the health care team often refers patients to the program. Barwise starts by offering an initial assessment of tobacco use and the patient’s interest in quitting. She then offers them one-on-one counseling to monitor their progress, personalized resources, and medication information, along with strategies to prevent relapse.

When the program started, all patients were seen face to face in clinic. Since the start of the pandemic, services are now offered face to face, virtually through video sessions and also over the phone, said Barwise. A majority of patients choose to have their counseling session on the phone. Tobacco treatment is now offered in several IU Health clinics across the state, with a focus still on cancer patients and also on behavioral health patients. Tobacco cessation is also offered for IU Health employees. Overall, the program has experienced a 53% success rate, said Barwise.

“Due to increased risk of Covid-19, tobacco users should act quickly to start their journey towards quitting the habit,” said Barwise. “It’s also vital that ex-tobacco users maintain their hard-earned ‘quit status.’ Studies show that people will attempt to quit several times before they are successful. Using an evidence-based approach will boost their chances.”

IU Health Simon Cancer Center patients who would like assistance can call 317-944-Quit or email for assistance. Other patients seeking free assistance may call the Indiana Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-Now.

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