Managing Stress and Anxiety
On April 29th, Breastcancer.org supported an on-line conversation with Mitch Golant, PhD and Rosalind Kleban, LCSW re managing stress and anxiety. Here is the opening section of that chat:
Website question: I've been dealing with stressful family issues that have no possibility of being resolved, and I'm worried about its effect on my health. I had one breast removed in 2005 with 6 months of chemo and 1 year of Herceptin. Late last year, precancer cells were found in my other breast and I had it removed. I am seeing a psychotherapist. Is there anything else I should do to alleviate this stress?
Answers —Rosalind Kleban, L.C.S.W.: There is very little good research evidence that stress will have a direct effect on the advance of cancer. By worrying that stress will create more illness, you end up with more stress. It is important, however, just for a good life and lifestyle and satisfaction to find ways to lessen the stress in your life. Certainly, therapy is a good place to start. And through therapy, perhaps one can find other activities that create fulfillment and distraction.
Mitch Golant, Ph.D.: I think what Rosalind is saying is incredibly important. How painful it is to think that somehow whatever's happening in your life would make the cancer worse. It's tough enough dealing with cancer, the side effects and treatments, and to think your lifestyle is adding to it. All of the things that Roz said are important. And it would be important as far as the psychotherapy to address that question of the stresses of your life and the cancer, or creating them.
Back to me (Hester): This is a hugely important issue that comes up daily in my practice. I talk frequently to women who worry that their stress caused their cancer or will cause it to recur or progress. Of course, these worries are often fed by our so-called friends who say things like: "You know, stress can cause cancer" or "You have to think positively or your cancer will comeback" or "Be careful about that negative thinking."
There is absolutely no evidence that stress or worry or negative thoughts have any impact on cancer. Of course, those feelings impact our daily quality of life, but they make not one whit of difference to our cancer health. That is a promise.
If you want to read more of Breastcancer.org's chat, here is the link: http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/fears/ask_expert/2009_04/index.jsp