Smoking, restless leg and colon cancer

April 6, 2009 3:38:33 PM PDT
Smoking, obesity and cancer are all related to a shortened life span. On Monday, three separate studies tell doctors that they might need to rethink how they treat smokers and also, how they screen the elderly for colon cancer. There is also new information on restless legs syndrome, and who might be more likely to get it. Ask any former smoker and they will likely tell you that quitting is an incredibly difficult chore for most. Yet, we know how damaging to health smoking can be. So guiding a patient toward a complete and permanent separation from tobacco might require a new more intensive support treatment from health teams.

Smokers may need an intense approach to help them quit, according to two studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The studies showed that a two-level approach, combining medical therapy and behavioral counseling, was the most successful way to quit.

In one study , the smokers who got medical therapy - either a patch or the antidepressant Wellbutrin - along with telephone calls from trained counselors had the highest success quitting.

The study, done at the University of Kansas and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, followed 750 smokers who smoked at least 10 cigarettes a day. They were randomly assigned to receive either the medical therapy alone or the therapy plus phone counseling.

A second study of 125 smokers with chronic health problems found similar results for the combination support.

"We offered pharmacotherapy every six months during the study," Dr. Edward Fellerbeck said. "The fact that they were willing to keep trying in spite of repeated failures in the past probably is a testament to how much these smokers really want to quit."

Another study on colon cancer screening found that only 47 percent of healthy elderly are getting colonoscopy screening. That is a number that should be much higher.

In contrast, 41 percent of sick elderly were getting screened, a number that should be much lower.

The study, done at four VA medical centers, showed that the sick people who go to doctors more are getting unnecessary tests.

Colonoscopy screening is recommended every five or 10 years for most people.

Also, Harvard researchers have found another reason to get rid of that big belly.

A health survey of 88,000 men and women found that obesity makes a person 50 percent more likely to suffer from restless leg syndrome. That's a painful sleep condition in which the legs move and jump.

Doctors don't know why the link exists, but say one possible solution is weight loss.

"If you can lose weight, thats great," said Dr. Charles Bae, of the Cleveland Clinic. "And maybe it can help restless leg syndrome, in addition to everything else that we do know, heart disease, diabetes and sleep apnea."

Restless leg syndrome may sound only like an annoyance, but it can disrupt a good night's sleep. There are treatments available for the problem, so ask your doctor if it's affecting you.