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Emotional State Doesn’t Affect Cancer Survival
*Researchers found no difference between upbeat, less
positive patients
By Madeline Vann
Posted 10/22/07
MONDAY, Oct. 22 (HealthDay News) — Neither positive
nor negative emotional
states predict how long a person with cancer will
survive, a new study finds.

University of Pennsylvania researchers say that
among head and neck cancer
patients, emotional health — good or bad — is not
an independent factor
affecting prognosis.

“We anticipated finding that emotional well-being
would predict the outcome of
cancer. We exhaustively looked for it, and we
concluded there is no effect for
emotional well-being on cancer outcome,” said study
author and University of
Pennsylvania psychologist James Coyne. “I think

[cancer survival] is basically
biological. Cancer patients shouldn’t blame
themselves — too often we think if
cancer were beatable, you should beat it. You can’t
control your cancer. For some, this news may lead to
some level of acceptance.”

“In a separate study, we found that single males
with head and neck cancer
appeared to be at risk for lower survival… and in
another study, we found
single males with cancer had among the lowest
quality of life,” said Movsas, who
is chairman of radiation oncology at Henry Ford
Hospital in Detroit.

But an Australian study released in the February
issue of Cancer showed similar
results for lung cancer patients. Patients in that
study also completed
questionnaires about their outlook before treatment
and after treatment.

As with the current study, the Australian research
team found no relationship
between attitude, positive or negative, and outcome.

Another study released in the Nov. 1 issue of the
British Medical Journal
analyzed data from 26 studies of emotional outlook
and cancer survival and came
to the same conclusion: A positive outlook may be a
good thing in general but
has no impact on cancer outcomes. The same was true
for negativity.

Fisch favors a concept he calls “rooting styles” —
comparing the way people
approach cancer with the way they root for a sports
team. Some are diehard,
never-say-never fans, and others may allow for the
possibility of losing a game
or a season, but both fans are backing the same team.

“Some people have a style where they are optimistic.
Some have a style where, if
you ask them what they think the outcome will be,
they are less certain. They
have a coping style that is not a positive-attitude
coping style, but it keeps
them edgy and works for them,” said Fisch.

In fact, Fisch added, trying to encourage a person
with a less positive way of talking about their
cancer to
think more positively would just cause them more
stress. That’s what he calls
the “tyranny of the guilt systems,” where others
imply that a patient has some
mental control over their cancer’s outcome.

Clashes between different rooting systems can become
a challenge when families
or couples have different styles, Fisch said. The
key is to find what works for
the patient and support that.

Live, love and laugh!

Norma Steele
Crazy Cat Lady ~,,,^..^,,,~ from San Mateo, CA

*Norma posted this summary on another board. I thought that it was interesting and also very informative.

Joel T. Nowak MA, MSW