Emotions and Cancer | Teen Ink

Emotions and Cancer

November 5, 2007
By Anonymous

Recently, scientists and researches are struggling to figure out if emotions of cancer patients ultimately help their survival rate. In the past, people have hoped that if patients keep an optimistic attitude toward cancer and their survival, it will actually benefit them and their health. Lately though, scientists are proving otherwise. Although tests are proving this belief to be wrong, these tests can sometimes be inaccurate. This is because when patients record their feelings on their cancer and survival, they can easily be lying or unsure of what exactly they are feeling. This debate on whether or not emotions affect cancer is continuously progressing and new research is being done every day.
Scientists are discovering that what we’ve believed in the past about emotions and cancer is actually wrong. In a recent study done by Dr. James Coyne from the University of Pennsylvania, they proved that “Emotional status was not associated with survival rate. A person's emotions were not associated with survival even after taking into account other factors, such as gender, tumor site or disease stage”. This elaborate experiment helps us understand that emotions in the end will not impact the rate of survival in cancer patients. After Dr. James Coyne tested a group of 1, 093 patients with head and neck cancer, 646 patients died. They studied the emotional status of each patient, and in the end, their emotions did not impact how long they ended up surviving. Throughout history, many people have believed that there are strong connections between your emotional status and your physical status. In some cases, this may be true, but concerning cancer victims, scientists are now realizing this theory doesn’t apply to them. As David Spiegel stated, “It’s quite another to claim that emotional support can actually improve the odds for a patient with metastatic cancer. After all, isn't cancer the classic "body" disease, strictly a problem of cells growing out of control?” Spiegel’s comparing avoiding the “sniffles” with many friends and family, to getting rid of cancer. According to him, cancer is a “body” disease, meaning, your emotions couldn’t possibly affect your illness if it only has to do with the body. Spiegel performed an experiment with cancer patients attending cancer support groups to see if they would survive longer. After a ten year follow up, the cancer patients who attended the support groups as opposed to the cancer patients who did not, showed no survival advantages. Cancer patients are encouraged to attend support groups to help them stay as optimistic as possible. Many patients are told that by attending these groups, there will be a greater chance of survival because they’ll be happier then they would be if they did not participate in them. Scientists have now found that “Group therapy does not extend survival among breast cancer patients, as many people had hoped,” which was announced in July. Support groups are supposed to positively affect your emotions, which were believed to help cure cancer without the medication. Even though this would be extremely helpful to all cancer patients around the world, unfortunately scientists are discovering that cancer has nothing to do with your emotions. “While stress and emotional state can influence some cardiac risk, it's not the same thing when it comes to a genetic abnormality, which is what cancer is," stated by psychologist and medical sociologist, Barrie Cassileth. According to her studies, she is finding the same results as many other scientists as well.
Although there is evidence suggesting that emotions do not affect cancer, people are still confident that despite what scientists have discovered, emotions are still linked to survival in cancer patients. Psychoneuroimmunology explores the connection between psychological and spiritual conditions and physical well-being, as said by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Going through cancer and all the treatments that come along with it can be exhausting. It has the ability to set the mind into a state of depression and can emotionally wear out patients. Studies have shown that using techniques to encourage relaxation can actually help you recover from cancer and make treatment easier. If treatment is easier and less exhausting, patients will remain more positive. “Mind-body medicine techniques, like guided imagery and relaxation, may help reduce some of these symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, muscle tension, and loss of sleep,” as stated by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America as well. Depression can physically damage people just as much as it does emotionally. Pan Mingji, author of Cancer Treatment with Fu Zheng Pei Ben Principle stated, “Great sorrow harms the lungs, and fear harms the kidneys. Though not necessarily precise, this belief definitely points out that emotional injury will effect the physiological functions of the qi, blood, viscera, and channels, and lower the body resistance, resulting in disease.” If sorrow can bring about this much damage to the body, then fighting off cancer while going through this sorrow has to be more difficult, according to Mingji. Alternative medicines for cancer such as relaxation would benefit almost all cancer patients because going through surgeries and medication day in and day out takes a lot out of a patient. People remain hopeful about these alternative ways to fight cancer and regardless of whether or not scientists agree with this or not, they will continue to believe in this theory.
Scientific evidence shows that emotions have nothing to do with the affects cancer has on patients. This scientific evidence is supported by many but there are still believers in natural ways to treat cancer. Even though many experiments have proven these beliefs wrong, many are confident in treating cancer with positive emotions as opposed to medical treatment such as chemotherapy. Scientists are still determined though to prove that your mental state does not affect your physical state when dealing with cancer.

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