BC Cancer has launched a Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) pilot program in Prince George, to help reduce barriers patients may face when trying to quit smoking while going through cancer treatment such as access to a pharmacy for individuals living in remote and rural communities.
Nicotine is highly addictive, and is often a challenging habit for people to stop. Different types of NRT such as patches and gum can help to relieve some of the physical withdrawal symptoms to help patients quit smoking while going through cancer treatment. BC Cancer – Prince George is one of only two cancer centres across Canada offering this novel service to patients.
"For patients who currently smoke, quitting smoking is an important part of their cancer treatment," said Dr. Renelle Myers, interventional respirologist and executive medical director, BC Cancer Smoking Cessation Program. "Patients that quit smoking at the time of a cancer diagnosis live longer, live better, have less chance of their cancer coming back and less chance of getting a second cancer."
As part of the pilot, nurses will provide a one-week supply of NRT patches and gum at point of care (during the patient's first clinic visit) to all new BC Cancer – Prince George patients who currently use tobacco. Patients will leave the clinic with a patch on their arm and a package of gum in hand, and can continue receiving a free 12-week supply of NRT at their community pharmacy by accessing the BC Smoking Cessation Program.
"Through the development of a new Nurse Independent Activity and decision support tool, registered nurses can independently assess tobacco dependence and prescribe and dispense NRT to new patients at BC Cancer – Prince George," said Megan Crosby, senior practice leader, Nursing, BC Cancer – Prince George. "If a patient can quit smoking while going through cancer treatment, their treatment will be much more effective and they will experience fewer side effects."
The program is also designed to provide NRT products to patients who attend their consultation virtually. The Northern Health region is over 600,000 square kilometres, meaning that not all patients can attend appointments in person. BC Cancer will courier the initial one-week supply of NRT patches and gum to provide patients with more time to visit their local pharmacy and access the 12-week supply of NRT offered through the provincial Smoking Cessation Program. The team has also incorporated a referral to the centre's Indigenous patient navigator and Talk Tobacco, a free service that offers culturally tailored support and information about quitting smoking or vaping for First Nation, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous communities.
The launch of the NRT pilot comes after more than two years of work and collaboration behind the scenes between the Smoking Cessation Program team and the team at BC Cancer – Prince George, who made this possible. This includes medical directors, executive directors, patient partners, pharmacy, nursing, administrators, health promotion specialists, Indigenous Cancer Control, Prevention and Screening, CST support and more who have contributed to the planning and launch of this pilot.
"I am very excited to see the launch of the NRT pilot program. This is a long time vision and passion of Dr. Myers, and I am grateful to be part of it. This has been a truly collaborative effort and I would like to thank everyone involved," said Cheryl Colby, program manager, BC Cancer Smoking Cessation Program. "I would especially like to thank Megan Crosby who has been an integral part of operationalizing this pilot and Brittany Schultz for helping to educate staff and making sure everything is working smoothly. We hope that this program will help to provide support to patients to help them quit smoking while going through treatment."