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Ask the CIS

Q: What is hospice?
A: Hospice is a way of caring for patients who can expect to live no longer than six months. Patients receive medical, psychological and spiritual help from health professionals and volunteers. The goal of hospice care is to control pain and other symptoms so the patient can have as much peace, comfort and dignity as possible. Hospice also offers support to caregivers and family members.
Patients may receive hospice care at home or in hospice centers, hospitals, or nursing homes.
Many health insurance plans cover hospice care. Medicare is the federal health insurance program for elderly and disabled persons. It pays almost the entire cost of hospice care if the patient is in a Medicare-certified hospice program. This benefit includes some medicines that would not be covered outside a hospice program.
Ask your doctor, your state hospice organization, or your state health department, for information on Medicare-approved hospice programs in your area.
Medicaid, a federal program for people who need help with medical expenses, may cover some of the costs of hospice care. To learn whether your state’s Medicaid program covers hospice care, call the welfare office, health department, or Medicaid office in your state.
For more information about hospice care, discussion groups, free publications, and how to find a hospice in your area, call the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization at 1-800-658-8898. Staff can answer calls in English and Spanish, and can send free publications in both languages.
Q: Am I at risk for lung cancer if I smoke only three or four cigarettes a day?
A: Yes. Any amount of smoking puts you at risk for lung cancer and other diseases. There is no safe level of smoking. But it is true that the more cigarettes you smoke, and the more years you smoke, the higher your risk of disease.
Research has shown that cigarette smoking causes about 87 percent of lung cancer deaths in the United States. Cigar and pipe smokers also have a higher risk of lung cancer than nonsmokers. Even cigar and pipe smokers who do not inhale are at a higher risk for lung, mouth and other types of cancer.
In addition, studies have shown that nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke on a regular basis have a 20 percent increased risk of lung cancer.
Overall, tobacco use is responsible for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths.
Smokers who quit live longer than those who continue to smoke. The earlier you quit, the greater the health benefit.
For help with quitting, call the tobacco quitline in your state. If your state does not have a quitline, call the National Cancer Institute’s Smoking Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848) 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For help with quitting online between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern time, go to and click on “Need Help?” and “LiveHelp.”
The National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service (CIS) is one of the country’s most trusted resources. “Ask the CIS” is distributed by the Mid Atlantic CIS, which serves the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Call the CIS toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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