Quitting Smoking Is Possible and Reduces Cancer Risk

No matter how long you've been a smoker, quitting is still possible and the anti-cancer benefits are huge.
BY JEANNETTE MONINGER
PUBLISHED: DECEMBER 09, 2016
DONNA FERNANDEZ - PHOTO BY SUZI NEELY
DONNA FERNANDEZ - PHOTO BY SUZI NEELY
You might say that smoking came naturally to Donna Fernandez. The 63-year-old Dallas resident grew up watching her dad smoke cigarettes and pipes. She was 16 when she took her first drag and 24 when she learned that her dad had lung cancer that had spread to his bones. “He stopped smoking cold-turkey that day,” she recalls. Despite her father’s death just six months later at age 49, and the knowledge that she could face a similar fate, Fernandez continued to smoke two packs a day for almost 40 years. “Nothing compares to the feeling you get from smoking a cigarette,” she says.

Occasionally, Fernandez would try to kick the habit using her dad’s method, relying on grit and determination. She was smoke-free for nine months while pregnant with her son, but started again soon after he was born. “I wanted to stop, for myself and for my family,” she says. “Giving up cigarettes is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do.”

Finally, in 2009, Fernandez decided that cigarettes were costing her too much — both in terms of money and her health. Although she took it for just three weeks instead of the full recommended course, the prescription smokingcessation medication Chantix was one thing that helped her quit. She’s been smoke-free for seven years.

But four years after Fernandez took her last drag off a cigarette, she noticed a knot on her collarbone. “I thought I might have thyroid cancer,” she recalls. Instead, a CT scan revealed that undetected lung cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.

THE CIGARETTE-CANCER CONNECTION

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rank cigarette smoking as the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. It’s to blame for almost 90 percent of lung cancer diagnoses and one out of five deaths every year.



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