Doctors say smoking makes cancer more aggressive, harder to treat

Lynne Adkins
August 21, 2019 - 7:57 am
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Smoking is a major cause of head and neck cancer and now researchers have shown it also makes the disease more aggressive.

Dr. Joseph Curry, associate professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Thomas Jefferson University, says you can think of the cancer as a seed in soil. The soil is the healthy surrounding cells, and the cigarette is the fertilizer. It makes the cancer grow and spread quickly. 

"Cigarette smoke changes the normal cells and the supporting cells around the tumor and makes them more susceptible to cancer growth, and also makes the cancer cells more aggressive," he said.

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Smoke also impacts your treatment.

"Quitting can help make your treatment more effective, especially in head and neck cancer," he said. "We know that if you're able to quit, treatments like radiation are more effective. So getting rid of smoking actually helps you in a lot of ways."

He says quitting also helps with wound healing and helps your body recover better from any cancer treatment.