According to an article in Best Life, scientific evidence indicates that one tiny change could help people improve cancer outcomes. Even though we know that how one feels mentally can have a strong impact on how one feels physically, when it comes to a disease as serious as cancer, we tend to think of it as something that only medicine could possibly treat. However, a new paper published in the journal Trends in Cancer reports that empowering patients to change their mindset about their diagnosis could help them get better care.
“We spend millions of dollars every year trying to cure and prevent cancer,“ Alia Crum, the director of the Mind and Body Lab at Stanford University and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “But cancer is more than a physical disease. As we strive to target malignant cells with cutting-edge treatments, we should simultaneously strive to provide equally precise treatment for the psychological and social ramifications of the illness.”
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can often bring on symptoms of anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts—all of which can inhibit a patient from seeking treatment or making helpful changes to their lifestyle. To combat this situation, Crum and her team propose encouraging patients to think of their bodies as friends rather than enemies, as well as viewing the disease as a manageable illness rather than a life sentence.
“Having the mindset such as cancer is manageable or even an opportunity does not mean that cancer is a good thing or you should be happy about it,” Crum clarified. “However, the mindset that cancer is manageable can lead to more productive ways of engaging with cancer than the mindset that cancer is a catastrophe.”
In fact, framing the circumstances of the illness as a journey rather than a battle makes patients more likely to think that they have control over the disease, and less likely to think of losing the fight and potentially dying.
An increasing body of research shows that optimism does carry tangible health benefits. One young woman, who had a rare form of lymphoma, told Best Life in 2018 that she certainly believes maintaining a non-catastrophic mentality helped her survive. “I never let myself be afraid that I wouldn't make it through the day,” she said.
There have been numerous times in my life when I had major health concerns—including having two breast biopsies (fortunately the outcomes were positive). Even though I felt considerable anxiety, I wanted my journey in life to include raising and enjoying my children into adulthood. Focusing on that goal greatly helped to reduce my fears. Dear reader, have you had such experiences? If so, sharing how you journeyed through them would be much appreciated.