Friday, March 5, 2010

News for cancer patients: Attitude influences outcomes

I've often described how when the odds were really poor, I used the power of the mind to help my own cause.I cited Norman Cousins' famous book Anatomy of an Illness, I asked my family to send me DVDs of things that make me laugh, and throughout my disease, when I or others were faced with worries, I asked "What could be said that would make a difference?"

I've cited that when Cousins wrote his book we didn't yet know about psychoneuroimmunology - the relatively new field of how mood affects the nervous system which affects the immune system. In other words, yeah, your mood can make you strong. (I'm not kidding; look it up.)

On Twitter today I came across a blog post about some evidence that people with optimistic personalities do better years later when lung cancer strikes.

  • 534 lung cancer patients were selected who had, years earlier, taken the MMPI personality test. 
  • They were divided into "pessimistic" and "non-pessimistic." The "non" group might include optimistics and neutrals - I don't know.
  • Their survival rates were monitored.
Results: Non-pessimists had ...
  • 46% higher median survival than pessimists
  • 55% higher 5 year survival
The effect was "independent of smoking status, cancer stage, treatment, comorbidities, age and gender."

So: Regardless of  whether your medical condition is strong or not, this sounds like a heck of a good thing to add to your tactics. Doesn't cost much, either.

Presuming you want to live longer, that is. You don't have to. But if you do, think about it.

The original article appeared in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology. The summary that I read is on Medical News Today.

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