Drop Your Positive Attitude?

Article published on 5th June 2008

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A group of medical researchers in Melbourne, Australia, presented findings at a major medical conference in Chicago recently debunking the idea that a positive mental attitude helps fight cancer.

Although the researchers acknowledged that their findings would not be well received by the vast majority of patients trying to fight cancer, but they were also adamant that their findings were correct.

Over an 8 year period, the Australian Breast Cancer Family Study looked at just over 700 women who at the start of the research had just been diagnosed as having localised breast cancer.

The finding showed that regardless of levels of anxiety, fatalism or optimism, there was no noticeable difference in the recovery or death rate of the women being examined, once all other factors had been accounted for of course.

But, according to the research team, the report wasn't all doom and gloom. Professor Kelly-Anne Phillips, a medical oncologist from Melbourne's Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre said that patients “often really beat themselves up and blame their attitude if their cancer relapses. We've shown absolutely that you're not at fault. You cannot influence your cancer with positive or negative thinking, depression, a fighting spirit, or any other factor.”

She went on to admit that although that can be reassuring for some, the findings do “cut both ways.”

Whatever the medical facts concerning a positive mental attitude and cancer recovery rates, I think it is undoubtedly true that such an attitude will grant real benefits in quality of life, if not affecting a cure, and may well encourage cancer sufferers to change their living habits in such a way so as to improve other aspects of their health, which, as a corollary, may help their bodies recover from invasive and/or radiological treatments.

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