Pancreatic cancer will strike one in 76 Americans in their lifetime, and it is one of the most deadly and serious types of cancer. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It is usually diagnosed late and is therefore very difficult to treat.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways to prevent pancreatic cancer, and its causes are largely unknown. What is known, however, is that smoking is a huge risk factor for pancreatic cancer. The risk of getting pancreatic cancer is two to three times higher among smokers. Scientists think this may be due to cancer-causing chemicals in cigarette smoke that enter the blood and damage the pancreas.
People who use smokeless tobacco are also at higher risk of pancreatic cancer. And, unfortunately people who switch to “light” cigarettes with lower tar and nicotine levels do not decrease their risk of pancreatic cancer.
Not Just Pancreatic Cancer: Smoking’s Deadly Reach
Quitting all tobacco products reduces your risk of not only pancreatic cancer, but also other health problems, such as heart disease, lung disease, and other types of cancer, including lung cancer, bladder cancer, and esophageal cancer. It will also reduce the risk of secondhand smoke exposure to those around you.
The risk of all of those cancers goes down when one stops smoking. They go up if one starts smoking,” says Otis W. Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. According to Dr. Brawley, within 24 hours of not smoking, your body already reacts favorably.
Kicking the Habit
Anyone who has tried to quit smoking knows that it is not easy. Quitting cigarettes and other tobacco products may be one of the hardest things you overcome in your life, the reason being that the key ingredient in cigarette tobacco, nicotine, is highly addictive.
Most people are not able to quit on their first try, so don’t give up. It may take time to quit smoking, but it will be the best thing you can do to protect your health and prevent pancreatic cancer.
There are many steps you can take to help you kick the smoking habit for good. There are also a number of organizations to turn to for help. Ask your doctor to point you in the right direction or call the American Cancer Society for more information.
Overcoming Smoking Triggers
There are certain situations that may cause you to want to smoke. These are called smoking triggers. Identify what circumstances make you want to light up and take steps to avoid them. Here are some of the more common smoking triggers and suggestions to overcome them.
- Stress, feeling down or blue: When you feel stressed or sad and want a cigarette to calm down or cheer up, take a walk instead or practice deep breathing exercises.
- Talking on the phone, driving, playing cards, or watching TV: Instead of smoking during these activities, suck on sugar-free candy or chew gum. Try eating carrots, celery, nuts, or other healthy snacks to satisfy your oral craving.
- Drinking alcohol: For many smokers, having a drink and a cigarette go hand-in-hand. This may be one of the hardest barriers to quitting. Stay away from alcohol and social settings until you have gotten your nicotine craving under control.
- Finishing a meal or drinking coffee: Go for a walk after dinner, pick up a cross-word puzzle, or try up knitting or any activity that keeps your hands busy. Try sucking on sugar-free candy or jump in the shower until the craving passes. If coffee is a trigger, reach for a healthy fruit smoothie instead. By eating healthy foods, you may be less likely to want to put unhealthy smoke into your body.
- Being with other smokers: Avoid being around other smokers until you have truly kicked the habit. Your friends and family will understand. Consider joining a non-smokers support group.
- Taking a work break: Go for a walk, meditate, or try some relaxing deep breathing exercises when you need a break. Alternatively, don’t take a break until you get your cravings under control. Your increased productivity will make you feel good.
- After sex: Brush your teeth, take a shower, chew gum, cuddle, or get a glass of hot tea.
Remember That Quitting Is a Process
Sometimes you take three steps forward, then one step back. If you give in to a craving and have a cigarette, that doesn’t mean that all is lost. So you had one cigarette — make that one your last one and start over. Figure out what made you give in to the urge. Was it having a glass of wine, going out to dinner, or a long drive in the car? Identify your areas of weakness and take steps next time so that you won’t give in.
If you are a smoker and are concerned about your increased pancreatic cancer risk, quit smoking now, especially if you have a family history of pancreatic cancer. Turn to supportive family and friends for help. Learn and practice tricks to outsmart your smoking triggers. And when you need motivation to help you stay a non-smoker, just think of all you’re doing for better health.