Psychological Health Equally Important In Cancer

May 23, 2023; Unhurry Expert Research Team

Cancer diagnoses can be extremely emotionally taxing for both patients and their families. This could continue for years after surviving. As a result, cancer patients experience despair and anxiety two to three times more frequently than the general population.

In a perspective paper published in the journal Trends in Cancer, experts propose that targeting cancer patients’ mindsets could have an impact on their health, functioning, and well-being, and they call for more research in this field.

Cancer is more than a physical disease

“We spend millions of dollars every year trying to cure and prevent cancer,” says co-author Alia Crum, a psychologist at Stanford University. “But cancer is more than a physical disease. As we strive to target malignant cells with the latest cutting-edge treatments, we should simultaneously strive to provide equally precise treatments for the psychological and social ramifications of the illness.”

Mindsets impact behaviour

Individuals’ fundamental presumptions about the world are known as mindsets. People may have quite diverse perspectives on what the same circumstance—like receiving a cancer diagnosis—means for their lives. Although mindsets are not always true or untrue, they impact people’s attitudes and actions. Therefore, attitudes can affect a person’s physical and mental health.

The relationship between the mind and body has gotten more attention because of developments in neuroscience and psychology during the past few decades. However, research into which particular attitudes and how they affect the health and well-being of cancer patients is only now beginning.

Two specific mindsets of cancer patients

Researchers stress that as cancer treatment becomes more precise and customized, the psychological treatment also has the opportunity to become more effective if targeted specifically.

The article presents two pairs of specific mindsets that could impact cancer patients’ health: regarding cancer as either a catastrophe or an opportunity and seeing the body as either a friend or a foe.

The perspective of cancer may change

Researchers contend that giving patients the tools to change their perspectives could fundamentally change how they perceive cancer. Instead of adopting a pessimistic mindset, patients may be inspired to engage in activities and start lifestyle changes like eating better and exercising by seeing cancer as treatable and realizing that their bodies are powerful and robust.

Patients may become less afraid of side effects from treatment and cancer recurrence afterward.

Cancer patients can adopt more useful mindsets

“We are not talking about positive thinking here,” Crum says. “Having the mindset such as cancer is manageable or even an opportunity does not mean that cancer is a good thing or you should be happy about it. However, the mindset that ‘cancer is manageable’ can lead to more productive ways of engaging with cancer than the mindset that ‘cancer is a catastrophe.’

We hope for patients to inspire them to think about the impact of their mindsets and give them skills to adopt more useful mindsets themselves.”

Psychological health overlooked in cancer

Although support groups and other resources are available to help with patients’ overall psychological health, mindsets tend to be overlooked in the current standard of care for cancer patients.

“Cancer clinicians do what they can to provide guidance and support and reassurance to help patients and to deal with difficulties,” says co-author Lidia Schapira, a practicing oncologist at Stanford University. “But that doesn’t mean that they’re delivering any really sophisticated mental health interventions.”

“Wise Interventions” can help cancer patients

Researchers contend that “wise interventions,” which target people’s thoughts and are timely and context-sensitive, could benefit cancer patients. This strategy has not been investigated in the field of cancer, even though it has been proven effective in other areas, such as improving the academic performance of underprivileged students and helping people manage stress more skilfully.

To gather solid data on how mindsets can affect cancer treatment outcomes and patients’ physiological health and what kinds of interventions can be most supportive, the team is presently undertaking studies, including randomized controlled trials with cancer patients.

Doctors Advise On How To Support Cancer Patients

A research study by University of Leipzig in Germany, found that 32% of cancer patients experienced at least one clinically meaningful mental health issue. The research sheds light on which patients we should watch more closely, and how to best provide support.


Mindset therapies on digital health platforms

First author Sean Zion, a doctorate candidate at Stanford University, claims that these interventions don’t always need in-person clinic visits. “Digital health platforms have made a tonne of progress in recent years. We believe that one way to advance this is by developing scalable mindset therapies that can be made available to patients, the kind that they can do at home on their own schedule and in an environment where they feel comfortable learning new things.

“This research is still in its infancy,” says Crum. “But we are working hard to uncover the specific mindsets that may interfere with patients’ ability to be resilient in the midst of cancer, and more importantly, which specific mindsets can be cultivated that can really improve their well-being. We devote blood, sweat, and tears to these questions because we believe cancer patients deserve the most sophisticated psychological care.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Zion et al. Targeting Mindsets, Not Just Tumors. Trends in Cancer, 2019 DOI: 10.1016/j.trecan.2019.08.001

Page citation:

Cell Press. “Empowering cancer patients to shift their mindsets could improve care, researchers argue.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2019. <>.

Help is here:

Name of the Organisation: Indian Cancer Society

The ICS is one of the first voluntary, non-profit, National Organizations for Awareness, Detection, Cure, and Survivorship of those affected by this disease.


Contact: email:

Telephone: +91- 22-2413 9445 / 5 CANCER HELPLINE: 1800-22-1951

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