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Smoking & Cancer

What do Sigmund Freud, Linda Evangelista and Madonna have in common?  Cigar smoking.  While smoking has been chic and trendy throughout the ages — Sharon Stone, Greta Garbo, Demi Moore and Virginia Woolf were all avaricious cigar smokers—it causes cancer, just like cigarettes do.

With big black box warnings and restrictions on smoking both in and outdoors, most smokers today are aware of the dangers of cigarette smoking.  Many believe that cigars, which are not “inhaled,” or marijuana, do not pose similar risks. They do.  Introspective as he was, Freud was an avid cigar smoker.  He was diagnosed with cancer of the palate in 1923.  In the first of the thirty-three surgeries to treat this cancer, half of his jaw was removed.  This resulted in a speech deficit that required Freud to relearn how to speak.  Undoubtedly, even Freud was psychologically unprepared for this.

Smoking (cigars, cigarettes and marijuana) and chewing snuff can cause cancer of the lips, mouth, tongue, throat, voice box, lungs and bladder.  Smokers have four times the risk of developing these cancers than non-smokers.  When combined with regular intake of alcohol, the risk increases to nine times the risk in non-smokers and non-drinkers.  In addition, there is increased risk of smoking-related cancers in non-smokers who are regularly exposed to tobacco smoke (passive exposure).

But, here’s the good news!  If a smoker stops smoking for two years, the damage from smoking begins to be reversed.  When the smoker has stopped smoking for ten years, the risk of smoking-related cancers returns to that of a non-smoker.  A second chance!  Now, how often does that happen in medicine?

If you are convinced that you are ready to stop smoking, Dr. Yagoda of Manhattan, New York offers advice on how to do it.  First, she recommends that you take a sheet of paper and fold it in half vertically.  On the left side, make a list of reasons labeled “Why I smoke.”  On the right side, make a list of reasons entitled “Why I shouldn’t smoke.”  Dr. Yagoda guarantees that the left side of the list will be chock full of reasons.  She says that smokers smoke because they have more reasons in favor of smoking than against it.  She jokes that the right side might otherwise be empty if she didn’t include all of the reasons and facts above.

Dr. Yagoda advises patients to keep this paper with them at all times…and simply read it while smoking.  When ready to take the next step, she encourages patients to read the list before smoking.  Next, she asks patients to put the cigarette out a few “puffs” early.  Finally, she suggests that patients wait longer after reading the list and before smoking.

In New York (NY), Manhattan, and New York City (NYC), Dr. Yagoda advises and encourages all patients to quit smoking.  She provides the reasons, benefits and tools.  Whether it is in combination with the Great American Smoke-Out or on their own terms, she has had many successful quitters.  Her integrative approach – combining behavioral, alternative and natural remedies with pharmaceutical treatments when necessary – has been responsible for these successes.  “Call me when you succeed,” she says, “And, remember, the only difference between success and failure is ——that the failure gives up!”