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Stress and Illness- June 2015 Cancer Demystified

The correlation between stress and well-being appears to be related.  Certainly true is that for many people, increased stress levels go hand-in-hand with becoming ill.  Well known is that a shock or prolonged stress has a huge impact on the immune system. A major stressor such as the death of a spouse or family member, marriage, divorce, financial troubles, or a cancer diagnosis all would definitely increase stress levels.

Responding to stress is a normal physiological process, known as the fight or flight response.  This response occurs rapidly without thought whenever “danger” is sensed.  The changes in hormone levels during this time increase blood pressure and heart rate so that a response to the “danger” by fight or flight happens.   

Several studies have tried to link life’s major stressors with illness.  Unfortunately, how each individual person handles stress is impossible to evaluate.  However, one published long-term study of breast cancer patients did show that reducing stress during the treatment process can improve survival rates.

Regardless of the lack of evaluation, common sense indicates that reducing stress is obviously extremely important.  For the cancer patient, choosing a trusted physician, who has a friendly staff and provides a calm, relaxing atmosphere for treatments is of utmost importance. Another integral part of reducing stress is having a supportive family.  Even massage therapy can be extremely beneficial at helping a patient relax.

First and foremost, patients must take care of themselves.  Employing actions to reduce stress as much as possible will definitely be of benefit to cancer patients.

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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