Massage therapists tend to wear many different hats – from bodyworker to confidant to healthcare advocate. When encountering a client who is entrenched in an addiction to cigarettes, the healthcare advocate hat is likely to emerge. There is an abundance of information available about the perils of smoking, making the case for quitting easy. But for the person with a nicotine addiction, stopping smoking is far from easy. If quitting does turn out to be a piece of cake, new research suggests that they probably should have quit when it was more of a challenge. This new revelation can be utilized by massage therapists as a ‘time is of the essence’ motivator for clients contemplating kicking their smoking habit.

Smoking Perils

Besides diminishing a person’s overall health, smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke cause more than 440,000 premature deaths each year in the United States. Of these premature deaths, about 40 percent are from cancer, 35 percent are from heart disease and stroke, and 25 percent are from lung disease. Smoking is frequently the source of:

  • Cancer – including lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, cervix and blood cancers
  • Cardiovascular disease – including heart disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, hypertension and aortic aneurysm
  • Lung disease – including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis and emphysema
  • Osteoporosis – including hip fractures
  • Cataracts
  • Pregnancy problems – including premature labor, low birth rate and increasing the infant’s risk of death from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
  • Erectile dysfunction

Regardless of their age, smokers can substantially reduce their risk of disease, including cancer, by quitting.

Surprising New Research

Based on research from the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, investigators have discovered that longtime smokers often present a similar symptom before their cancer is diagnosed: they spontaneously quit smoking with little effort. As a result of their study that appeared in the March 2011 edition of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, the researchers speculate that sudden smoking cessation may actually be a symptom of lung cancer.

According to lead researcher Dr. Barbara Campling, professor in the Department of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, “It is widely known that many lung cancer patients have stopped smoking before diagnosis. This observation is often dismissed, by saying that these patients must have quit because of symptoms of their cancer. However, we found that the majority of lung cancer patients who stopped smoking before diagnosis quit before the onset of symptoms.

Furthermore, they often quit with no difficulty, despite multiple, previous, unsuccessful quit attempts. This has led us to speculate that, in some cases, spontaneous smoking cessation may be an early symptom of lung cancer.”

Pertinent details about Campling’s results are as follows:

  • All study participants with lung cancer had been smokers.
  • 48 percent quit smoking before their cancer diagnosis.
  • Of the 48 percent who quit before diagnosis, just 11 percent were symptomatic at quitting.
  • Those with lung cancer who quit were as dependent on nicotine as those who continued to smoke.
  • • Despite their dependency on cigarettes, 31 percent quit with no difficulty.

Although the relationship between quitting a long-time smoking habit with ease and the development of lung cancer requires further investigation, the Philadelphia researchers proposed a possible link. They suggest that spontaneous smoking cessation could be a consequence of a cancerous tumor secreting a substance that interferes with nicotine addiction.

Regardless of why a smoker might be able to suddenly quit easily, this new discovery can help motivate people to finally stop smoking. Massage therapists want their clients to have every opportunity for wellness and, as such, they are in an ideal position to advocate smoking cessation. By tactfully explaining this study, emphasizing that working hard to quit is a good thing and encouraging smokers to keep fighting their nicotine cravings, bodyworkers could give their clients precisely the inspiration they need to conquer their potentially lethal cigarette addiction.

More Information:

Lung Cancer: Massage Benefits and Precautions