MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Nosayaba Osazuwa-Peters, BDS, MPH, CHES
Instructor, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
Saint Louis University School of Medicine
Member, Saint Louis University Cancer Center
St Louis, Missouri
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Several studies have shown that there is an adverse effect of smoking on head and neck cancer survival; however, there are studies that show no effect between smoking and head and neck cancer. We wanted to investigate this problem using a single institution’s cancer dataset. Additionally, we wanted to understand the role of marital status in the smoking behavior of head and neck cancer patients, and to understand if smoking played any role in head and neck cancer survival.
Our study confirmed that head and neck cancer patients who were smokers at the time of diagnosis had lower survival rates than nonsmokers. We also found that married head and neck cancer patients were less likely to be smokers and more likely to survive longer than those unmarried.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: Smoking cessation should be integrated into every level of cancer care, before diagnosis, during active treatment, and through the lifespan of cancer survivors. Patients need to understand that the benefits of not smoking, or quitting tobacco, transcends initial cancer diagnosis.
Additionally, social and family support is critical to head and neck cancer survival. While clinical factors such as stage of disease, treatment modality, and anatomic site of cancer remain major determinants of survival, more and more studies like ours and others prior are pointing to these non-clinical factors, especially marital status, as crucial to cancer survivorship.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: This study only scratched the surface of this subject; there are several unanswered questions that will help advance the knowledge of support in cancer survivorship. For example, if being married is so important to cancer survival, what do we do about cancer patients that are unmarried? What other extrinsic forms of support could be analogous to marital support; that could confer similar survival benefits as being married? How does a change in marital status AFTER cancer diagnosis affect survival? Do gay and lesbian and other minority sexual couples have similar survival benefits as heterosexual couples? Answering these and many more questions will deepen our understanding of the role of support in cancer survivorship, not just head and neck cancer, but cancer in general.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: Smoking rates may have decreased across the United States; yet, at least three-quarters of patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer have a history of smoking. While clinicians continue to figure out the best treatment modalities that optimize survival, we believe that there should also be serious focus on smoking prevention and cessation for cancer patients. In addition, our study also shows that there may be more to cancer survivorship than clinical factors; social support in the form of being married, may be an important factor in head and neck cancer survival.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Osazuwa-Peters N, Adjei Boakye E, Chen BY, Tobo BB, Varvares MA. Association Between Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma Survival, Smoking at Diagnosis, and Marital Status. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online November 09, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2017.1880
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