Knowing how important it is for lung cancer patients to stop using tobacco doesn’t translate to action for many physicians, according to the results of a survey conducted by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s (IASLC) Tobacco Control and Smoking Cessation Committee.

The online survey asked more than 1,500 IASLC members about their practices, perceptions and barriers to tobacco assessment and cessation in cancer patients. More than 90% of the physician respondents indicated they believe active current smoking affects treatment outcomes and that tobacco cessation should be a standard part of clinical care.

However, only 39% of respondents said they routinely provided smoking cessation assistance. The study also found that physicians believed patients would be resistant to tobacco cessation treatment and many do not feel adequately prepared to deliver effective tobacco cessation support to their cancer patients.

“This study really helps us better understand the barriers to implementing tobacco cessation and gives us a target to improve cessation support,” according to the authors. Increasing tobacco cessation activities will require increased assessment and cessation at diagnosis and during follow-up, increased clinician education, and improved tobacco cessation methods.

“This is the largest assessment of tobacco assessment, cessation, and perceptions of tobacco use by physicians who treat cancer patients,” says Graham Warren, vice chair for research in Radiation Oncology at the Medical University of South Carolina and lead author on the study.

“Tobacco use affects outcomes for virtually all cancer patients by increasing mortality, treatment complications, and other adverse health outcomes such as heart disease. Stopping tobacco use may be the most important activity a cancer patient can do to improve their chances of successful cancer treatment. As clinicians and researchers, we must work to improve access to tobacco cessation resources and improve effective methods of tobacco cessation for cancer patients.”