Monday, October 22, 2007

Mind over matter: Not for cancer?

With illness, we've all heard that if you stay positive and optimistic, that the mind can do powerful things. "Mind Over Matter" is the mantra (image credit). Each of us knows someone or has a story of someone who seemed to "beat the odds," by staying positive and optimistic.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania released data today about patients with head and neck cancer. Contrary to what is currently believed, the data showed that people who are depressed about their cancer are no more likely to die than people who keep a positive outlook. (Reuters)
The analysis showed that emotional status was not associated with survival rate. A person's emotions were not associated with survival even after taking into account other factors, such as gender, tumor site or disease stage, Coyne and colleagues report in the journal Cancer.
Now don't get me wrong, being optimistic and having a positive attitude has many benefits - particularly for cancer patients. However, unfortunately, given this data, I can no longer give the opinion that I think that antidepressants and psychotherapy have a chance of improving survival or even extending life. Hopefully, further research on this topic will prove otherwise.


Bardiac said...

The benefit, though, might be that we can reduce the subtle (and not so subtle) blaming of patients for "failing chemo" (or some other treatment) because they don't have a positive attitude. Less woo, more science!

Chrysalis said...

I've always known that was poppycock. I am one of seven people...and I was the one that drew up my will, put a power of attorney in place, got everything in order once diagnosed, and prepared to die.

The others all fought and fought hard, and once they were through their treatments, they felt it was behind them and thoroughly held to that belief until it recurred.

Attitude may help you get through, may help you have a better quality of life, may help you cope with the knowledge of what you have. It can't change the characteristics of the tumors, can't change what has already damaged the DNA, and is therefore something that should never be looked at as the patients responsibility when it comes to the success or failure of survival.

Travis Cody said...

Maybe this news will allow patients to forgive themselves when they just can't seem to muster a smile on a bad day.