June 01, 2023; Unhurry Expert Research Team
In This Article
Cancer patients experience despair and anxiety two to three times more frequently than the general population. As cancer diagnoses can be extremely emotionally taxing for both patients and their families. This could continue for years after surviving.
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. A perspective paper published September 23 in the journal Trends in Cancer emphasized that cancer treatment should include specific customized psychological aspects to make it more effective.
Cancer — 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,” she adds.
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. Thoughts and behaviours are influenced by mindsets, which don’t have to be true or wrong. Therefore, attitudes can affect a person’s physical and mental health.
Link between body and mind
After advances in neuroscience and psychology in the past decades, the link between mind and body has gained wider recognition. However, which specific mindsets have the greatest impact on the health and well-being of patients with cancer and how they do so are just starting to be investigated.
Researchers stress that as cancer treatment becomes more precise and customized, psychological treatment also can become more effective if targeted specifically.
Shift in mindset could alter the cancer experience
The article discusses two sets of particular mindsets that may have an effect on the health of cancer patients: viewing illness as either a tragedy or an opportunity, and viewing the body as either a friend or a foe.
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.
After therapy, patients could be less concerned about adverse effects and cancer recurrence.
‘Cancer is manageable’ mindset will give better results
“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.’ What we hope for patients is to inspire them to think about the impact of their mindsets and give them skills to adopt more useful mindsets themselves.”
Specific mental health interventions required in cancer treatment
Although there are support groups and other services available to help with patients’ general psychological health, attitudes are frequently disregarded 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.”
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.
Creating scalable mindset interventions as part of cancer treatment
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.
These interventions don’t necessarily require in-person clinic visits, says first author Sean Zion, a doctoral student at Stanford University. “There have been so many advancements in digital health platforms in recent years. We think that one way to push this forward is by creating scalable mindset interventions that can be widely distributed to patients, the type that they can do at home on their own time, where they are comfortable taking in new information.”
“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 are devoting blood, sweat, and tears to these questions because we believe that cancer patients deserve the most sophisticated psychological care.”
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
Materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Zion et al. Targeting Mindsets, Not Just Tumors. Trends in Cancer, 2019 DOI: 10.1016/j.trecan.2019.08.001
Cell Press. “Empowering cancer patients to shift their mindsets could improve care, researchers argue.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190923111233.htm>.
Help is here:
Toll-Free Mental Health Rehabilitation Helpline Kiran (1800-599-0019)
Name of the Organisation: Indian Cancer Society
The ICS is one of the first voluntary, non-profit, National Organization for Awareness, Detection, Cure and Survivorship of those affected with this disease.
Contact: email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: +91- 22-2413 9445 / 5 CANCER HELPLINE: 1800-22-1951
Name of the Organisation: Vandrevala Foundation
Vandrevala Foundation is a non-profit that partners with organizations to help communities thrive by providing education and healthcare. Vandrevala Foundation launched a mental health helpline in India in 2009 to offer free psychological counselling and crisis mediation to anyone who is experiencing distress due to depression, trauma, mood disorders, chronic illness, and relationship conflict.
Contact: Email: email@example.com
Telephone: +91 9999 666 555