Smoking might trigger cancer, it is known, but the story doesn't seem to end there. Cancer patients who smoke suffer a lot more pain than non-smokers, it has been found.
Researchers compared smoking status and pain levels of 224 cancer patients about to start chemotherapy. The participants answered questions about their pain severity, pain-related distress, and pain-related interference in their daily lives.
For example, they rated their perceived severity of bodily pain on a scale from one to six and the degree to which the cancer pain interfered with daily activities.
The results showed that current smokers reported higher levels of pain than people who had never smoked. Smokers also appeared to be more bothered by their cancer pain.
"Patients who continued to smoke despite their cancer diagnoses reported greater interference from pain than either former smokers or never smokers," researcher Joseph W. Ditre, PhD, of the department of psychology at Texas A&M University and colleagues write in the journal Pain
In addition, researchers found an inverse relationship between cancer pain and the number of years since quitting smoking among former smokers. Cancer pain decreased the longer it had been since they stopped smoking.
The results of the study are published in the January 2011 issue of the journal Pain
"Clinicians must do more to assist cancer patients to quit smoking after their diagnosis," Dr. Lori Bastian, of the department of internal medicine at Duke University, Durham, N.C., and the Durham VA Medical Center, wrote in a commentary accompanying the report.
"Although more research is needed to understand the mechanisms that relate nicotine to pain, physicians should aggressively promote smoking cessation among cancer patients," she noted in a journal news release. "Preliminary findings suggest that smoking cessation will improve the overall treatment response and quality of life."