This blog post comes from Tim Elliot. Tim emailed me a week ago to see if he could write a 'guest blog' for Richie's site. Tim is very passionate about maximising cancer patient's mental and physical health, and how best to cope with terminal illness. I'm sure Richie would be well impressed to know people want to guest write on his site. Anyway, here goes.........
Scientists studying the new field of physchoneuroimmunology, which involves examining the nervous and immune systems interactions, have discovered that the advice “just stay positive” positive might actually have a physical basis in helping the body cope with cancer. New studies show that the power of positive thinking might actually help to increase cancer patients’ chances of survival because positive emotional experiences can actually often boost the body’s immune system.
Although the link between positive thinking and cancer treatment is still under consideration and further study, what is certain is that there is a direct, harmful connection between stress and cancer. Chemicals that are produced in significant amounts when you are stressed, such as cortisol and norepinephrine, are proven to have an effect on tumor growth. Norepinephrine in particular, has been proven to induce cancerous tumor cell growth in mice and is thought to play a role in ovarian cancer in humans. Even in cancers caused by environmental toxins, such as mesothelioma, and genetic factors, such as breast cancer, there are thought to benefits to staying positive that are attributed to the interplay between the improved mental and emotional condition of patients and their immune systems. For example, the average mesothelioma life expectancy is only a little over a year- but it’s believed that a positive outlook can extend it by up to several months.
Of course, it can be extremely difficult to stay positive when coping with cancer. With the increase in knowledge on how positivity can affect the outlook of cancer, more doctors have begun suggesting more measures aimed at boosting emotional and mental health. More and more often doctors have begun to suggest cancer patients participate in support groups, and exercise regularly. Exercise directly boosts people’s mood by stimulating various chemicals in the brain, and because cancer support groups present patients with a community of others who have been in a similar situation they provide an emotional buffer. In the end though it’s important to remember that that phrase we always hear- “Just stay positive”- might have a lot more power to it than you ever thought.