Care to Quit

Staff at Calvary Mater Newcastle are leading the way in helping oncology patients quit smoking through participation in the Care to Quit trial, led by Professor Christine Paul from the University of Newcastle.

The enthusiastic Calvary Mater Newcastle Care to Quit leadership team consists of Dr Fiona Day, Dr Tin Quah, Gillian Blanchard, Laura Healey, Emily Sykes, Leanna Pugliese and Ashley Powell. Wasting no time, the Mater team recruited the first patients to Care to Quit after it opened in June.

Smoking tobacco has harmful effects on almost all parts of the body. After being diagnosed with cancer, patients who continue to smoke have higher post-operative complications, longer hospital stays and more radiotherapy complications.

Conversely, patients who stop smoking at a cancer diagnosis improve their chances of survival, among many other benefits. Despite this, not all patients treated at cancer centres are screened for current smoking or referred to smoking cessation services.

The Care to Quit trial is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funded stepped wedge randomised clinical trial to implement best-practice smoking cessation care for people with cancer. It will be run over three years at nine cancer treatment centres in Australia.

At the Mater, patients will be invited to participate when attending Medical Oncology, Radiation Oncology, Surgical and Haematology outpatient clinic appointments. Participating is simple, involving two scheduled phone interviews. The trial aim is to see an improvement in the smoking quit rate among patients recruited after their treating staff are provided with a six month ‘intervention’ period of support and education in providing smoking cessation care.

The Mater team have helped develop important educational resources for the trial. Role play videos demonstrating smoking cessation advice provided to ‘patients’ (played by actors) have been filmed in the Medical Centre and in the Radiation Oncology treatment area and will be used at all participating cancer centres.

“I believe we are at a watershed moment for addressing this important aspect of supportive care in oncology,” said Dr Fiona Day. “We now realise that continued smoking after a cancer diagnosis can have an impact similar to having versus not having some cancer treatments. So now it’s time to resource and upskill our health services to meet this need, and gathering clinical trial evidence via the Care to Quit trial will aid that process.”