Many people don’t realise healing your emotions is an essential part of cancer treatment. And recent medical research confirms what many of us have known all along: emotions such as depression, fear, anxiety, anger and isolation stimulate inflammation in the body, disrupting immune function and our ability to heal.

In recent breast cancer studies, researchers discovered ‘negative’ emotions directly impact survival rates, quality of life, recurrence of the cancer and possibly even the biology of the tumour itself. It was found that greater levels of fear, anxiety and social isolation were more likely to correlate with high-grade, more aggressive tumours that lacked hormone receptors and were more difficult to treat. Earlier studies have also shown that high threat emotional life events, and the way in which they are dealt with, signficantly predict a diagnosis of breast cancer within a 5 year period.

The field of psychoneuroimmunology has helped us to understand how stress reduces the effectiveness of the immune system in combating infection and the growth of malignant tumors.

At the 2011 American Psychiatric Association annual meeting, the issue was raised that even though psycho-social interventions can make such a positive difference, these interventions are often overlooked in the treatment of cancer.

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Chen, C.C., David, A.S., Nunnerly, H., Michell, M., Dawson, J.L., Berry, H., Dobbs, J. & Fahy, T. (1995). Adverse life events and breast cancer: case-control study. British Medical Journal 1995; 311: 1527

Giese-Davis, J., Collie, K., Rancourt, K., Neri, E., Kraemer, H.C. & Spiegel, D. (2010). Decrease in Depression Symptoms Is Associated With Longer Survival in Patients With Metastatic Breast Cancer: A Secondary Analysis. Journal Clinical Oncology, 2011; 29 (4) 413-420.

Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K., McGuire, L., Robles, T.F., & Glaser, R. (2002). Emotions, Morbidity and Mortality: New Perspectives from Psychoneuroimmunology. Annual Review of Psychology, 2002;53: 83-107

Williams, J.B., Pang, D., Delgado, B., Kocherginsky, M., Tretiakova, M., Krausz, T., Pan, D., He, J., McClintock, M.K. & Conzen, S.D. (2009). A Model of Gene-Environment Interaction Reveals Altered Mammary Gland Gene Expression and Increased Tumor Growth following Social Isolation. Cancer Prevention Research, 2009; 2: 850

 Yin, S. (2011). Psychosocial Stress Linked to Aggressive Breast Cancer. Medscape Medical News. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/750283

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