(CNN) - I quit smoking two months ago with the help of Chantix. However,I seem to cough more now than than when I was smoking. Is thisnormal for people who have smoked for 20 years? I feel much betteroverall, but I am a little concerned that maybe emphysema might besetting in.
-- Mark Brushwood, Roanoke, Virginia
Congratulations on quitting smoking. I realize how difficult itis and respect the commitment it takes to stay off cigarettes.Remember, one out of three lifelong smokers will die of asmoking-related disease. These include cardiovascular disease,pulmonary diseases and numerous cancers. There are many advantagesof stopping smoking.
Within hours of quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressuredrop.
12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blooddrops to normal.
Two weeks to three months after quitting: Your circulationimproves, and your lung function increases.
One to nine months after quitting: Coughing and shortness ofbreath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucusout of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasingthe ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs and reduce the risk ofinfection.
One year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heartdisease is half that of a smoker's.
Five years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to thatof a nonsmoker five to 15 years after quitting.
10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is abouthalf that of a continuing smoker's. The risk of cancer of themouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix and pancreasdecreases.
15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease isthat of a non-smoker.
If you have a chronic cough, meaning it lasts more than a week,you should be seen by a physician. After an examination andhistory, he or she may elect to do a chest X-ray or even a CT ofthe chest. In most cases, these test results will be normal, andthe cough will just wear off.
Chantix is one of several drugs that are useful for thosewanting to stop smoking. Most take it for three months. I do notknow if you are still taking it. If you are, it could be the causeof the cough. Deep in the list of side effects, a small number(less than one in 100) of people report asthma-like symptoms andcough as a side effect.
Nicotine gum and nicotine patches are also useful for many whowant to stop smoking. For more information on smoking cessationstrategies, you can call the American Cancer Society at800-ACS-2345.
Dr. Otis Brawley
Chief Medical Officer,
American Cancer Society
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