Head and neck cancer affects over 550,000 people annually worldwide, and tobacco is a well-known risk factor leading to 42% of deaths from the oral cavity and pharyngeal cancers. The limited number of tobacco cessation discussions among patients and providers is key to unawareness of cessation resources within the community.
Many cancer patients continue to use tobacco during treatment, negatively affecting their outcomes. The study focuses on how limited tobacco cessation (TC) discussion among patients and providers was partially the result of providers’ lack of awareness of current TC resources available.
A study with 144 patients treated for newly diagnosed head and neck cancer revealed that those with less severe disease who undergo less extensive treatment are at risk for continued tobacco use. The documented tobacco cessation discussions in 28% of the patients’ medical records.
A total of 117 patients with newly diagnosed head and neck cancer who were active tobacco users were identified during the 5 months post-intervention (17 to 33 tobacco users per month [median, 23]), and tobacco cessation discussion documentation increased 56%. Our study findings support the competing concerns and lack of familiarity with tobacco assessment and management.
Our study’s limitations include short-term follow-up and the possible underestimation of tobacco cessation counselling in the clinic, if not reliably documented in the patients’ medical records. In conclusion, tobacco use status documentation is now part of the meaningful use practice, but it becomes useless without intervention to optimize patients’ ability.