When you are living with mesothelioma, it can help to understand a little more about research that's been done on the connections between your mental/emotional/spiritual self and your physical body.
In the past decade medical professionals have become increasingly interested in the relationship between cancer, emotion, stress and psychological factors. Following are some questions that have been investigated.
In these mesothelioma to-do list FAQs, we offer some common questions and answers about the physical and emotional challenges of the asbestos lung disease mesothelioma.
Are some personality types more likely to get cancer?
Although the idea of a cancer-prone personality has been popular for a long time, there is no scientific evidence for this. Although you may understandably be anxious or feel depressed, that doesn't mean the two are linked. In fact, this is a potentially harmful idea since it may wrongly make you feel you are at fault for your cancer.
Can stressful life events bring about cancer?
Some people feel that their cancer was caused by a traumatic event. They may have had quite dramatic incidents that were extremely stressful. While studies have shown that psychological and environmental stress can cause small changes to your immune system, many people experience severe traumatic episodes without developing cancer. There is no evidence that these immune changes cause cancer or affect its growth.
Does the response to having cancer affect the outcome?
One study has suggested that among women who have had early breast cancer treated by surgery, those who have a positive 'fighting' spirit may do better than those with a more negative attitude, or feelings of helplessness. This study is now being repeated with a larger number of women. It is not known whether this effect, if it exists, would be relevant to people with advanced cancer.
A positive attitude clearly helps when people have to cope with cancer and its treatments. However, this does not mean that you have to be cheerful all the time. Everyone who has cancer experiences feelings of helplessness, and often feels too tired to be positive and show a fighting spirit. This does not mean that they lower their chance of a good outcome from treatment. It is important to talk to your doctor or nurse about feelings of anxiety and depression as help is available to treat your psychological needs as well as your physical needs.
Can changing my attitude and level of stress affect the outcome?
Anything that helps you cope in your own way is valuable. Many medical professionals have begun to agree that a change in attitude to having cancer may affect the outlook. This idea influences many complementary approaches to cancer. The effect of these approaches is very difficult to evaluate properly, but there is no doubt that many people find them helpful and they contribute to people's sense of well-being and quality of life. This can only be a good thing. Whether or not reducing stress can actually improve a patient's prognosis is impossible to prove, but there is good evidence that a positive attitude improves a person's quality of life. However, it's important to note that trying to be positive should not become a burden. Very few people are optimistic all the time, and it is perfectly natural to feel down sometimes.
Is it okay to consider other treatments besides what my doctor recommends?
Yes, it is up to you to decide if you want to add other treatment options, regardless of whether your physician agrees or not. But you must be sure you understand that standard treatments have proven value, while most other therapies haven't been proven to affect the course of disease. Yet there may be significant value in these therapies for helping you in other ways. Read more here.