Does smoking interfere with chemotherapy?

3 answers | Last updated: Nov 05, 2016
Tigerette asked...

My husband has Esophageal cancer, was diagnosed Oct 9, 2008. He went through chemo for three months, then went through surgery, now he is on chemo and radiation, How long does a person with this kind of cancer survive? He is suffering badly. Also, because he went back to smoking for two months now, what does this do while taking chemo and radiation?

Expert Answers

Bonnie Bajorek Daneker is author and creator of the The Compassionate Caregiver's Series, which includes "The Compassionate Caregiver's Guide to Caring for Someone with Cancer," "The Journey of Grief," "Handbook on Hospice and Palliative Care," and other titles on cancer diagnosis and end of life. She speaks regularly at cancer research and support functions, including PANCAN and Cancer Survivor's Network. She is a former member of the Executive Committee of the CSN at St. Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta and the Georgia Chapter of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

The American Cancer Society says that esophageal cancer's survival rates are "18% of white patients and 11% of African-American patients survive at least 5 years after diagnosis. These figures take into account all patients with esophageal cancer, no matter what stage they were in at diagnosis. Survival rates for early stage disease are higher." 

This means that most patients (82% white or 89% black) will not live past 5 years. You'll want to help him on a daily basis, but make sure you've had some long-term, end-of-life discussions, so that when that time comes, you will know what he'd like to do. 

You mention that he is suffering badly now, and I can understand why. He's had major treatments in a relatively short period of time. It seems like his oncologist is aggressively managing in the best way for his condition, which is very good.

While smoking has been proven harmful to the body -- and most health professionals advise against it -- there is little definitive research of the impact of smoking on chemo on esophageal cancer. In lung and other cancers, it has been shown to decrease the effectiveness of the chemotherapy agents and decrease overall healing in tissue.

Although you may not like that he's smoking again, he may do this for some relief, enjoyment or distraction.  While you cannot make him stop, let him know that he's acting contrary to his treatment goals. Understand if he needs to make the decision to continue doing so.

Community Answers

Gettnerdl answered...

What about taking an ulternative..with chemo..cantron,cancell...I know personally someone that the doctor said there was no hope and gave her 3 months..this was 17 years ago and she is doing fine except for the damage radiation did to her.

Jade1961 answered...

Hi, I realize that your husband's smoking bothers you due to the cancer & treatment. But as the in house expert says, he may be doing this as a distraction or simply because he is addicted to the nicotine. I am a two time cancer survivor. I am also a smoker. I work with the Lance Armstrong Foundation as a leader of a LIVESTRONG Army which is all part of TEAM LIVESTRONG ~ A grassroots effort of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I was a physician assistant for 20+ years when I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and was forced into Medical Retirement (read Disabled). My chances for Chemotherapy helping me were only 40% and the chances of it killing me were 60%, suffice it to say I chose not to have Chemo. I am 11 year free & clear of that cancer. I am also 17 years free of Uterine & ovarian cancers. I would like to recommend that you take a look at a website that can help you with a lot of what you are feeling & experiencing, they can help your hubby too. We help people live life on their own terms as it says in the Manifesto "This is YOUR life and you WILL Have it YOUR WAY". Allow your husband to make his decisions with knowledge, get a 2nd, 3rd or 4th opinion if that is what it takes. End of life issues are a serious thing to take into consideration. If something happens does he want resuscitated? If not you need him to have a DNR. Does he want placed on life support? If not he needs a Living Will that will allow the doctors to do the right thing. Seeing as the survival rate is as listed above. Hospice is something to consider. They believe in a dignified death when that time comes. But for now please reach out to our organization. That is what we are here for. Not just for your hubby but for you too, those who care for a cancer victim need support too. God Bless & LIVESTRONG! Jade