Norelle Done | HealthGreatness
One in eight. A little more than 12 percent of women in the United States will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Such daunting numbers of affected women and their loved ones have given rise to a growing number of fundraiser walks, donation events, and even the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
As women – and men: one in 1,000 men are at risk during their lifetime – struggle with the fight against breast cancer, there is more to be done than simply scientific treatments. While a breast cancer diagnosis can cause insurmountable stress and anxiety for the patient, breast cancer patients can also harness their psychological responses. Using mental exercises, patients can supplement their breast cancer treatments and may even help bring them to remission sooner.
According to the National Cancer Institute, “Evidence from experimental studies does suggest that psychological stress can affect a tumor’s ability to grow and spread… the stress hormone norepinephrine, part of the body’s fight-or-flight response system, may promote angiogenesis and metastasis.”
Negative emotions can lead to feelings of hopelessness, which reduce a patient’s will to live and fight the disease. By fighting these negative emotions, breast cancer patients are better equipped emotionally and psychologically to fight cancer and improve their chances of living. Additionally, they are not as likely to turn to poor lifestyle choices to cope with their diagnosis, such as eating poorly, cutting back on exercise, using substances like alcohol or cigarettes, and withdrawing from their relationships.
These mental exercises may help breast cancer patients to reduce depression and anxiety, helping them cope with psychological stress as they fight cancer:
- Meditation, relaxation and stress management
- Counseling and cancer education
- Social and emotional support
- Anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications
Psychological exercises cannot reduce or stop tumor growth – at least, not as evidenced by any studies. “Mental health treatment that claims to alter tumor growth is not recommended as the only form of cancer treatment, nor should it be sought just because someone thinks it might prolong life. But mental health care and emotional support can help patients and their loved ones better manage cancer and its treatment,” according to the American Cancer Society.