It’s time for the Great American Smokeout

by Dr. Brandon Phelps, DO
For The Review

Would you like to become a ‘quitter’?

On Nov. 15, smokers across the nation will once again take part in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout.

About 36.5 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world. Not only does smoking harm you individually, but secondhand smoke harms your loved ones. Secondhand smoke to children causes asthma exacerbations, more infections to lungs, ears and the upper respiratory tract; plus, it increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Adults exposed to secondhand smoke have higher risk of cancers, heart disease and stroke.

Quitting smoking at any age has immediate and long-term benefits. Quitting is hard, but you can increase your chances of success with help. Research shows that by getting help through counseling or medications can double or triple your chances of quitting successfully.

The sooner you quit, the more you’ll reduce your chances of getting cancer and other diseases. Within minutes of smoking your last cigarette, your body begins to recover:

Two weeks to three months after quitting

Your circulation improves and your lung function increases, which means you feel more energized. One to nine months after quitting

Coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs (called cilia) start to regain normal function in your lungs, increasing their ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.

One year after quitting

The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who still smokes. Your heart attack risk drops dramatically.

Five years after quitting

Your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder is cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a nonsmoker. Your stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after two to five years.

10 years after quitting

Your risk of dying from lung cancer is now about half that of a person who is still smoking. Your risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.

15 years after quitting

Your risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.

Quitting smoking lowers your risk of diabetes, lets blood vessels work better, and helps your heart and lungs. Quitting also helps stop the damaging effects of tobacco on how you look, including premature wrinkling of your skin, gum disease and tooth loss.

Life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than that of non-smokers. Quitting smoking before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related disease by about 90 percent.

Should you be screened for lung cancer?

The American Cancer Society does not recommend screening tests to check for lung cancer for people considered to be at average risk. But, there are screening guidelines for those at high risk, due to their history of cigarette smoking.

Screening may be appropriate, if you are all of the following:

• 55 to 74 years of age

• In good health

• Have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history AND are either still smoking or have quit within the last 15 years (A pack-year is the number of cigarette packs smoked each day multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked).

Help is available – and it’s free!

The American Cancer Society can help you take steps to quit smoking and provide quit-smoking programs, resources and support that will increase your chances of quitting successfully. To learn more, call 1-800-227- 2345.

If you have questions about your lung health, see your health care provider. A lung screening (such as a CT scan) may be suggested.

Dr. Brandon Phelps, DO is a family medicine practitioner at Aurora Health Center in Sheboygan, 920-458-4010.

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