Whether it is due to boredom, stress or just trying to “fit in,” a large percentage of the U.S. military smokes tobacco products. A 2011 Department of Defense survey of active-duty military personnel discovered 24 percent of service men and women smoke tobacco.
This percentage is higher than our civilian counterparts, where 21.2 percent of people smoke. Unfortunately, tobacco use continues after military service.
A 2012 survey of Veterans Affairs enrollees discovered 20.1 percent of beneficiaries are currently smoking. These numbers are worrisome, because tobacco smoking increases a person’s risk for heart attacks, strokes, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, weak bones, stomach ulcers and gum disease.
Additionally, secondhand smoke can lead to diseases in infants and children of smokers. The risks of sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, colds and lung infections are increased due to breathing in secondhand smoke.
The good news is that Fort Bragg is working with your medical providers and staff to assist with tobacco cessation. The Get Ready to Quit program is located at every medical clinic on post. There are multiple days, times and locations that make the program easy to fit into your busy schedule. Walk-ins are welcome and individual or group sessions may be available.
In addition, your primary care provider is ready to discuss smoking cessation with you at any time.
Many options exist to help people quit smoking. Medications such as Zyban (buproprion) and Chantix (varenicline) are used to help lower the desire to use tobacco products. Nicotine gums and patches help reduce the craving for smoking. Quitting smoking is a journey that can be frustrating and difficult, with many setbacks and restarts. It often takes smokers eight to 11 attempts until they are finally successful at quitting tobacco use.
Patients who smoke, or have smoked, often come to see their doctor worried about their risk of lung cancer, which is the third most common cancer and the number one cause of cancer-related deaths for Americans, according to The American Cancer Society.
Previously, there was no screening method for lung cancer; however, it is now recommended that any adult aged 55 to 80 who has a 30-pack year smoking history and currently smokes, or quit within the past 15 years, should be screened for lung cancer.
Pack years is a number determined by the amount of packs of cigarettes a person smokes per day multiplied by the number of years the person has been smoking. If patients meet the requirement for screening, a computed tomography scan is performed to look at the lungs. A CT scan is painless; you lie on a table while the machine provides you with instructions on breathing to get the best pictures of your lungs.
The amount of radiation exposure from the CT scan is relatively low and the benefits of early lung cancer detection outweigh the exposure.
The best way to prevent lung cancer is to stop smoking. Your medical provider is ready and willing to help you quit whenever you are ready to stop. If you have any concerns or would like to discuss your options further, please schedule an appointment with your primary care provider.