A recent editorial in the British Medical Journal states that “It is never too late for people to stop [smoking], even when they have lung cancer.” The studies show that preliminary evidence that smoking cessation after diagnosis of early-stage lung cancer improves outcomes and the risk for death is halved in patients who stop smoking. This finding is based on research being done by the UK Center for Tobacco Control Studies and the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle. Some of the data estimated that, for a type of cancer called early-stage non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the five-year survival for 65-year-old patients was 33 percent if they continued to smoke and 70 percent if they stopped smoking.
Critics claim the survival rates “are staggeringly high” and that they appear to be “outlandishly optimistic so the figures need to be taken in their proper context that this is just early-stage lung cancer patients rather than lung cancer patients as a whole. The situation is quite different for patients with advanced disease — and they form the majority of patients diagnosed with lung cancer. Most patients diagnosed with lung cancer are in the last months of their lives and fewer than one in three patients with lung cancer survive even one year.