The results are not yet conclusive, but recent studies have shown that a cancer-prone personality may exist. Keep in mind that any emotion — depression, hate, sadness, and anger, for example – is going to make us more prone to illness and disease.
And as we’ve seen, positive attitudes and perceptions, feelings of gratification, love, and especially hope will invariably boost the immune system and protect us from disease.
It’s a well known fact that when patients give up, their odds of beating cancer drop precipitously. Conversely, study after study show that a positive attitude and a feeling that one is going to win the battle over disease boosts one’s immune system significantly.
The result: survival rates go up even in cancers that are difficult to treat.
According to psychologists, there are two basic personality types that are either more susceptible to cancer or able to battle it more successfully. They are:
- tends to repress anger and other emotions
- harbors feelings of resentment and/or hostility
- has a low self-esteem
- unable to cope well with life changes
- thinks negatively and/or pessimistically
- tends to become depressed or have feelings of hopelessness
- focuses too much on the negative htmlects of job, family, etc.
- has few friends or no social support network
- manages stress effectively
- controls anger but expresses positive emotions
- has a sense of hope and optimism
- has a feeling of control over his or her life
- thinks well of him or herself
- maintains a healthy lifestyle, including physical checkups
- stays active and maintains a good social network
These are not hard and fast characteristics. Cancer victims may be happy and optimistic people who rarely get angry and who cope well with change.
Some curmudgeons, on the other hand, may never get cancer and live to be a 100 years old. The difference comes into play, according to experts, in how well these people recover if or when they do get cancer. In the event that a cancer is terminal, the patient with a cancer-resistant personality tends to live longer and better.
What is Cancer
Firstly, cancer is not a single disease but many. And just like there is no single cause or factor that triggers cancer growth, there is not a single, universal treatment that will cure it.
Regardless of what type of therapy is used, however, patients can improve the effectiveness of whatever treatment method they are undergoing by utilizing certain techniques such as imaging which can stimulate the immune system and aid in the healing process.
The term cancer is used to categorize any kind of malignant tumor growth.
Normal cells have a defined life span, roughly a few weeks to a few months.
When control of cell division is lost, the cell may go on dividing indefinitely. In other words it becomes immortal. The dividing cells proliferate, destroying adjacent tissues and taking away the nutrients that normal cells need to live and reproduce.
One of the defining characteristics of all cancer cells is that they lose their ability to stay anchored to tissue. When tumor cells break loose from their home tissue, they travel through the blood and lymph and invade other areas of the body, where the process continues and new masses form.
Unless the process is stopped, the cancer cells simply take over and ravage the tissues to which they travel.
A promising new experimental treatment called antiangiogenesis involves a drug that literally cuts off the blood supply to cancer cells and essentially starves the tumor. Researchers have discovered that a protein is responsible for tumor blood vessel growth. By blocking that protein, they believe that a drug can eventually be developed to specifically target tumor cells.
The two main factors that cause tumor development and growth are genetics and the environment.
As many as 25 percent of all people develop cancer at some time in their lives, and next to heart disease more will die of it than any other disease. In reality, though, we don’t know how many of us will actually develop cancer because, more often than not, it’s eliminated from our system before we even know it.
A normal healthy cell suddenly mutates to become a cancer cell and is immediately attacked by specialized white blood cells whose sole mission is to seek out and destroy the cancer.
As one immunologist once told me, “If the fight is between a cancer cell and a healthy immune system, the immune system usually wins.” The problem in many cancer cases is with the immune system not being able to keep up, in which event the cancer wins.
Very few cancers are inherited. Exceptions are some types of leukemia, breast cancer, and colon cancer. Some cancers are the result of an interaction between genes and the environment, but most (as many as 80 percent) are the result of factors in the environment such as toxins, foods high in fat and/or low in fiber, industrial chemicals, pesticides, radiation sources, hazardous waste, and cigarette smoke.
Eliminating these from our lives will go a long way to eliminating the risk of getting cancer. In fact, one leading cancer specialist has claimed that most people would not get cancer at all if they just followed these 4 rules:
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid chemicals in the environment and in foods
- Avoid UV radiation from the sun
- Eat a low fat, high fiber diet.
There is one other risk factor that the cancer specialist failed to mention but which research has shown to be critical in helping the body fight cancer.
That factor is emotional well-being and the manner in which one perceives and responds to stressful events in his or her life. Study after study has proven that individuals who cope well are less likely to get cancer.
And evidence from clinical research has shown that cancer patients who use positive reinforcement and the power of their minds to help them overcome their illness are much more successful.
Almost every hospital now offers cancer patients counseling, social support, visualization therapy, and stress management. Many are beginning to offer hypnosis as well.
These techniques have been shown to extend life span, improve the quality of life and, in some cases, actually cure cancer when other, more conventional treatments have failed.
In the event that someone does get cancer, the goal is to eliminate the tumor or at least to decrease its size. Methods for doing this are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Surgery is most effective when the tumor has been detected early and has not spread (metastasized). Chemotherapy and radiation are used to kill metastatic cells that may have spread to other parts of the body.
Surgery can be used along with the other methods to ensure that all of the tumor is eliminated in the event that it has spread.
In a later chapter, I’ll discuss how alternative and herbal medicine can also be used to augment cancer therapy.
One of the problems with chemotherapy and radiation is that healthy tissue is damaged along with the cancerous cells. If some of the healthy cells happen to be white blood cells, the immune system becomes depressed and infections and other diseases occur.
When high doses of chemicals are required (as is the case when cancer has spread throughout the body), a bone marrow transplant is necessary following chemotherapy because the drug literally destroys the lymphocytes within the existing bone marrow. A further problem with current chemotherapy is that cancer cells may develop resistance to the drug.
When that occurs, a cocktail of drugs or stronger drugs need to be administered, but which can cause more extensive damage to healthy tissue.
The best way to beat most cancers is to avoid the risk factors that trigger cancer growth in the first place. Naturally we can’t do anything about the genetic component, but we can at least minimize our potential for developing tumors.
Maintaining a healthy immune system is one of the best ways to do that. Stress management, behavior modification, meditation, and relaxation techniques all help to maintain homeostasis and bring us back to a state of equilibrium. The techniques found in later chapters will help you learn how to do that.
Another way to beat cancer is by knowing your own body. Looking for signs of change and warning signals will help you detect cancer early and help ensure recovery. The odds increase dramatically with early detection. In the first section of chapter three, I discuss methods of diagnosing disease by recognizing signs and symptoms.
Cancer for many individuals needn’t be a death sentence. More people recover from cancer than don’t, and survival rates for many cancers are improving significantly. What we are now beginning to learn, from both research and survivors, is that even a disease like cancer can be overcome much more easily when we use the power of our mind to help fight it.
The Stress of Cancer Treatment
“The cure is worse than the disease,” is a common expression cancer patients know all-too-well.
Two problems they face in their recovery are the side effects of chemotherapy treatment and the negative stress reactions that ensue and consequently lead to negative attitudes, depressed immune function, and poor therapy results.
A friend of mine who had cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy once told me that his treatment was so bad that he felt like just giving up.
To him, it seemed as if the treatment was making his disease even worse.
Overcoming the physical and emotional stress of treatment is an arduous task, but those who persevere recover more quickly and have fewer remissions later on.
Conversely, those who give up or who don’t utilize stress management strategies during and after treatment are often the ones who succumb the most rapidly.
It’s important to remember that any kind of stress triggers the release of cortisol. Cortisol, in turn, depresses the immune system and blocks the production of both NK and white blood cells. Patients who are suffering from the physical side effects of chemotherapy and the emotional stress of having cancer will invariably have even lowered immune responses.
There are several things patients can do if they are having severe side effects.
Relaxation exercises, imaging, meditation, breathing techniques, and other stress management strategies will go a long way in helping combat negative stress reactions and boosting energy levels