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Positive thinking does not help fight cancer


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Do not shoot the messenger I do not make this stuff I merely share it and thought this might stir up some good emotional responses!!!! :wink:

Positive thinking does not help fight cancer: study PRINT FRIENDLY EMAIL STORY

PM - Monday, 2 June , 2008 18:14:00

Reporter: Barbara Miller

MARK COLVIN: We journalists too often deploy the cliche about people "battling" cancer, but now Australian researchers have found that there's actually nothing much a patient's attitude can do to fight the disease.

Cancer specialists agree that it's a finding which is both reassuring and unsettling.

They've concluded that a breast cancer patient's attitude to the illness has no influence whatsoever on their chance of survival. The scientists say the work proves that patients should stop blaming themselves if their cancer returns.

But some patients aren't keen to let go of their belief in the power of positive thinking.

This report from Barbara Miller.

BARBARA MILLER: It's an idea which has been gaining ground for some time. Smaller studies have already suggested that positive thinking does not boost a cancer patient's chance of survival.

Those findings have now been confirmed with a large long-term study involving the assessment of more than 700 breast cancer patients over a period of eight years.

The study's lead author Associate Professor Kelly-Anne Phillips from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne has just presented the findings at a major cancer conference in Chicago. She says for some patients it's good news.

KELLY-ANNE PHILLIPS: I think it’s certainly good news for those women that I see whose cancer has unfortunately returned and who come to me and are really blaming themselves for not having thought positively enough or having been depressed or anxious after their cancer diagnosis.

And they come along thinking that is the main reason their cancer has recurred. And now I’m able to tell those women, look that’s just not true.

BARBARA MILLER: Kelly-Anne Philipps, who's also a Colebatch Clinical Research Fellow at the Cancer Council of Victoria, says the findings don't need to take away a patient's sense of having control over their illness.

KELLY-ANNE PHILLIPS: The things that are important are, you know, having the right treatment and taking the appropriate treatment and also there are other emerging factors that are important in survival after breast cancer, so things like regular exercise for example, is something that women do have control over and it seems to be emerging as an important prognostic factor, maintaining normal body weight for example, is clearly a very important prognostic factor after breast cancer.

So I think it means that women can focus on the things that we really do know make a difference.

BARBARA MILLER: Dr Jane Turner, a spokesperson for the Cancer Council, has welcomed the research.

JANE TURNER: I’m absolutely delighted because a number of people believe that stress causes cancer and women are commonly told to be positive. However, that denies them the chance to talk about the things that are really concerning them, it denies them the chance to necessarily seek the support they might need, and it also denies them a chance to seek treatment for anxiety and depression, which are very common.

Some people are naturally optimistic, some people are worriers. You can’t turn yourself into something you’re not, nor should you feel burdened that you have to.

BARBARA MILLER: Would you expect that these findings would also apply to other forms of cancer?

JANE TURNER: I would expect so. There has been some research done in Melbourne, at Peter MacCallum Hospital, looking at lung cancer and they’ve found similar results.

BARBARA MILLER: But some cancer patients are sceptical about the findings.

Lizzie Wheeler from New South Wales was diagnosed two years ago with ovarian cancer.

LIZZIE WHEELER: I don’t think I could have made it this far if I didn’t have a positive outlook and everybody around me was positive. I’ve had times where things have been really rough and I’ve been really ill, but I’ve managed to bounce back up again.

BARBARA MILLER: What do you make then of this study that finds that the attitude that people have, in this particular case, to do with breast cancer had no impact on their chance of survival?

LIZZIE WHEELER: I’m not sure where they’re coming from with that. I don’t know. I can’t believe that your attitude doesn’t have an outcome that helps with you to keep going.

BARBARA MILLER: John Stubbs is the executive officer with the advocacy group, Cancer Voices Australia. He says the research findings will help some patients.

JOHN STUBBS: Personally, I feel that my positive attitude was of great benefit to me, not only that, I had a great clinician and I had great family support. So, I think I got the whole package.

It’s probably fair to say that there would be a number … or there would be many cancer patients who feel the same, or there may be an equal number of patients who don’t want to be trapped – I think we call it, trapped in the prism of the positive, that they’ve been positive throughout their cancer and its returned and all of a sudden they’re made to feel guilty about that.

So, I think there will be some good things that’ll come out of this report.

BARBARA MILLER: That report prepared by Barbara Miller.

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I don't care if being positive helps me fight cancer or not. It makes me feel good and that is all I care about. Anyway, I wonder how "being positive" can be measured in a scientific analysis with control and experimental groups. Being positive is such a subjective thing. how is it measured?

Don M

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Didn't we have an article a few months ago on this subject, and we all decided it was a bunch of hogwash? Sorry, I didn't mean to insult the hogs again.

But really, I seriously doubt that it's true. And even if it could be scientifically proven to me that it is true (a big if), I'd say so what? Like Don, I prefer to be positive because it makes me feel better.



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I think the important thing about this study is that it takes out the guilt factor. I know of several people who've had cancer who HATED the 'a positive attitude will win this battle' comments that they got because sometimes they just wanted to be pissed off or depressed or sad or scared. And every time they felt that way, someone was there, or they even just had the thought that, 'I'm making myself worse.' Then they blamed themselves or they felt others blamed them for their condition (which, is a song and dance we're all pretty familiar with here, right? It's a sucky feeling!)

Having a positive attitude will take you a lot of places. I mean, it doesn't take a study to show that having a positive attitude will make you FEEL better, will make your life brighter.

But to tie that to life expectancy and to say that people with positive attitudes are the ones who win the fight leaves a lot of people feeling guilty for their prognosis not being so good. My mom dealt with this. And I've wrestled with it since her death. My Mom was SUCH a fighter. She didn't take flack from anybody. When she was diagnosed, I told her, "Momma, you are meaner than cancer (not in the bad mean way--but in the determined to beat bad things way)." Her fight was only 8 short months. For a long timet I wondered, "Did she choose not to fight hard enough? Or someone would compliment someone who was going on 18 months or 2 years or 15 years or whatever by saying, "You're such a warrior," and I'd be left thinking, "And my Mom wasn't?" I eventually came to the conclusion that no one would ever say that a soldier who lost his life in the first moments of Normandy WASN'T a warrior. That battle was simply so big and so bloody that tragedy was an inescapable fact for some of them. So for my Mom, it wasn't because she was less of a fighter, it wasn't because she was negative that whole 8 months, that she died sooner than others. It was because she was fighting a demon of a disease and no amount of positive spin could change that.

Being positive (in a guilt-free way) can only ever be a good thing, but for those people who aren't natural optimists, or who have bad days or bad weeks or bad months or deal with depression or whatever, I think this news is very freeing. It's a message to those who are struggling emotionally that YOU can beat this too. You might not always be able to control your feelings and thoughts and personality, but you CAN control your treatment options.

I think in some backwards way this news could even be empowering to some--which... you know... ironically might help some folks be more positive. Ain't that a kick in the head?

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I just like to stir things up occasionally. :wink::wink: A little riling up can be healthy sometimes I think. Keeps people on their toes!!! :):)

Don't shoot the messenger I post so much research stuff I forget whats oldsd and whats new sometimes! :shock:

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I am known (renowned? :D) for having a positive attitude and for being a fighter. I don't know, however, that the two are the same; and certainly, everyone has a different definition for them.

I've never believed that my positive attitude would cure my cancer. Instead, I view my positive attitude not as a way in and of itself to fight cancer, but as the best attitude to have while fighting to buy time and meet my goal of experiencing the best possible quality of life.


Life is a Terminal Condition

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I think being told you have a disease that many people die from and undergoing all the tests, and stresses of treatment leads to depression. I don't think depression has to be suffered . People should ask for help.

Part of our treatment should be with how to cope with the emotions, the stress, the fatigue, and anything else as nausea etc.

I don't see anything wrong with wanting to feel better and I think feeling better must help you get over the disease and cope with the treatment.

It is not a matter of feeling guilty about being low. It is about how to feel better.

Donna G

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I agree with Carole. Altho I will not be cured for having a positive attitude, I am enjoying what time I have left to live. I keep myself going, gardening for hours on end, and doing most everything I did before cancer, albeit slower. When people tell me to slow down, I explain to them that if I can't do what I love in life, why bother?? If I had taken to my bed when I was diagnosed, I wonder if I would be here now.

We all have to learn to deal with the cards that were dealt to us in life - why not deal with them as positively as possible??? Being happy and smiling DOES make you FEEL better physically and mentally!!

Hugs and Positive vibes to you all - Patti B.

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*opening her big mouth again* :lol:

I really don't think this article is telling anyone NOT to be positive. I think if you ARE a positive person then more power to you! That's awesome! Your quality of life IS going to be better. And that's fabulous.

I really believe it is more for those who feel trapped by the thought that have to constantly maintain a persona of strength and positivity in spite of their struggle with cancer to 1) Be acceptable to those around them and 2) to have a chance to win the fight against cancer.

It's not saying, "It doesn't help anything, so why don't you go cry in your cheerios instead of feeling good and doing the things that you love."

It IS saying, "If you are crying in your cheerios, because you feel really lousy, it doesn't make you less of a fighter. It doesn't necessarily lessen your chances against the beast."

I come from the perspective of battling postpartum depression right now. PPD is tough because you are in a point in life where you are supposed to be feeling TOTALLY BLISSED OUT but you feel like crap. The guilt of not feeling what you are supposed to feel really, really sucks. Of course I love my kids, but I also feel really down sometimes.

The people to whom this article is speaking are dealing with the other end of the spectrum. Cancer is a sucky hand to be dealt. It's a situation where you should be ALLOWED to have a bad day or two, or fifteen, or whatever. To have a pity party. To be grumpy or down anytime that you want. Yet so many of our images of fighting cancer are romanticized that folks begin to feel guilty when they don't feel positive. It's the flipside of my experience: At a time when you should be able to feel lousy, people feel guilty for not putting on the grinning through it face.

If you feel positive already, then by all means, keep it up!!!! But if you don't, this study says you still have a fighting chance.

Shutting up now. Really. (I have no idea why this became such a bee in my bonnet.... ;))

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Re Donna's comments on depression:

Having suffered two severe depression episodes back in the 90s, I was extremely concerned about the possibility that my diagnosis and prognosis would send me spinning back into one--an event I very much did not want to happen since I no longer had "time to waste."

At that time, I did not start therapy or meds again because I wanted to try and monitor and control it myself, which I did quite successfully.. until last Fall.

By October 2007, it was--unfortunately--clear to me that although I was handling my new situation just fine (buying time v. quality of life,. etc.), my daughter and my mother were not. :(

I won't bore you with the details, but I couldn't stop thinking about (dwelling on) the knowledge that I couldn't be there for them while alive (you can only help those who are willing to admit they need help) and wouldn't be there for them once I was dead.

I don't know if it was depression or anxiety that I began to experience (and it didn't really matter which), but I was definitely doing a terrible job of "letting go" (accepting my limitations).

It was at that point that I began seeing a mental health therapist who came to my home once weekly (I had gone back on palliative care on October 1st following my second stress fracture).

He is still coming once weekly and he has been invaluable in helping me not just to accept my limitations, but to "balance" my thoughts (I was way too focused on my mother and daughter, which translated into my "wasting time" on things I could not fix).

Even though the therapy successfully grounded me (brought me "back to earth" :D) I have no intention of stopping it. It continues to help me maintain and it is great having a trained health care professional to whom I can "tell all" and whose listening and advice help me wake up and smell the roses every morning.

I recommend it strongly to all of you--whether you are the patient or the family member. Our goals shoiuld not be to to prove how strong we are, but to be strong, and if therapy may help, then go for it (Leave no stone unturned!).


Life is a Terminal Condition

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  • 2 weeks later...

I definitely think positive thinking has helped my Mom as well as the rest of my family keep our sanity during all the ups and downs, unending trips to doctors, hospitals, urgent care centers, etc.

That's not to say there hasn't been crying jags, anger and a million other emotions since Mom was first diagnosed. But we always come back to the positive and our faith to get us through.

As of yesterday, all the tumors in Mom's lungs and spots on the liver are gone except one small one. Considering we almost lost her twice so far, her oncologist at Sloane is shocked and ecstatic at how well she's doing and feeling.

So just like I ignored all the statistics on her longevity and chances for survival, I will definitely ignore this silly "expert" article. Especially since there has been tons of studies done that say EXACTLY the opposite.

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  • 2 months later...
"simplyklb"]I sometimes feel like the emotions are left out of the equation. I wrote a huge post on emotions earlier today. You just can't be positive 100% of the time.


Kristi, I agree completely that you cannot be positive 100% of the time. We are all still human and I know sometimes my Mom gets tired of being tired. :) When she gets sad or upset, we find that laughter REALLY is the best medicine.

I remember when she was diagnosed, as it was her birthday and one year ago today. I never cried so much and I suffer from severe clinical depression, so that says a LOT. LOL What made the diagnosis so much worse was the fact that my Mom is also one of my best friends. So the person I would usually go to for support was the very person who needed my support. It definitely complicated matters, to say the least. But it also made me even more motivated to beat this thing. And believe me, Mom has been to hell and back but she made it through, just like I always believed she would.

Don't let anyone dictate how you feel, like a very wise woman taught me (Mom) feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are.

That being said, No matter what people say, I do believe all the prayer, herbal supplements and positive thinking DOES make a difference. I have to believe that, it is what keeps me going.

Hang in there Kristi!!!

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