Dr. Mathew Van Deusen

Courtesy Washington Health System

Dr. Mathew Van Deusen

No matter what your reason for starting smoking, the reason for quitting is simple: you could save your own life.

“Cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for the development of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” says Dr. Mathew Van Deusen, a thoracic surgeon with WHS Washington Hospital. “Smoking cessation decreases an individual’s relative risk of developing lung cancer. This reduction is evident within five years of smoking and continues to improve with continued abstinence.”

By quitting smoking, you are taking steps to reduce the accelerated rate of decline in your pulmonary function and your risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or other lung problems. Plus, the American Lung Association notes the following benefits after quitting:

  • 20 minutes later, heart rate normalizes
  • 12 hours later, carbon monoxide level in blood normalizes
  • 2 weeks to 3 months later, heart attack risk decreases and lung function improves
  • 10 years later, your risk of dying from lung cancer is half of what it would be if you still smoked

Smart screenings

If you have a high risk of developing lung cancer, talk to your healthcare provider about how screening with a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan of your chest may be beneficial.

“This screening has been found to reduce overall mortality by identifying patients with early stage lung cancers,” Van Deusen says. “By diagnosing and staging cancers, we can determine the appropriate treatment options to benefit each patient.”

You may be considered a high-risk patient if you are 55 to 77 years old and have a history of smoking at least a pack a day for 30 years, two packs a day for 15 years, or if you have quit within the past 15 years.

Setting up for success

Quitting smoking is not a journey you have to take on your own – your primary care provider can help guide you. Support groups are also a great option to help you stay motivated. And never underestimate the power of family and friends to help you achieve your goals, especially if those goals mean the healthiest version of you will be around longer.

To make an appointment with a WHS pulmonary specialist, call 724-222-2577.

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