In a recent discussion with another breast cancer survivor, we were chatting about the factors that may have caused our cancers. I explained that for me I thought that my choice to not deal with my past domestic abuse might have been a major reason. I thought that I had buried all of this inside of me for years and the cancer was the physical manifestation of that eating away at me. When I asked her about her cancer, she immediately responded that it was stress. The interesting thing is that at the time that I had breast cancer, I was under additional great stress on the job as well and this made me stop and think about this factor in a new way.
And as we continue to make strides in the treatment of cancer itself, we need to understand that dealing with cancer on a psychological level as well often greatly improves the physical outcome for everyone.Barbara Jacoby
I have often heard that after receiving a cancer diagnosis, a person should include in their course of treatment a professional who can help them deal with the mental aspects of such a diagnosis as well. But, I couldn’t begin to imagine how this would work or what such help might be. So I started to explore this avenue and was very interested in what I found in a particular article by Carol A. Polevoi, LMFT, CBS, CPC that addressed this issue. I was particular surprised when I read the following:
“According to the National Institute on Health and the studies published in major medical journals, stress is said to be the cause of about 87% of all disease.
Quite simply, stress is a biological reaction to mental, emotional, and/or physical stimuli where normal functioning has been compromised by upsetting the body’s equilibrium.”
I really had to stop and think about this. It wasn’t the first time that I felt that the stress may have been a contributing factor and I am intimately aware of the fact that my friend had also been under undue stress on the job. I started analyzing a number of factors that were in both of our lives and I couldn’t help but think that maybe this truly was an issue that we needed to consider.
In further reading the article, not only did I understand how stress does manifest itself in our lives on a physical plane but also I was pleased to learn that there are truly ways in which a professional can teach us to change our lives and our thinking in order to counteract the stress with which we are dealing.
I can’t say for a fact that this “caused” my cancer but this is not the first time that I have heard that stress does play a big role in cancer. I have always been quick to think that everyone has stress in their lives and not everyone gets cancer so I also wrote this off as being a core factor. However, when I was forced to face the reality of our situations, I realized that not only did we have extensive additional stress but also neither of us ever found a way to release that stress. We both tend to shut down, withdraw and be quiet.
While I continue to explore a variety of factors that may be responsible for causing breast cancer, I have added a greater value to the possibility that stress has and does play a bigger role than I thought. As a result, I strongly recommend that anyone who receives a cancer diagnosis include a professional on their team for direct assistance and for help for family members. This person can not only help them identify the stress that may have caused the disease in the first place but also to understand and deal with the psychological effects that such a diagnosis can bring to a patient and their families. It is time that we understand that we need to treat the whole person and those who are impacted by such a diagnosis and not just the physical aspects of cancer. And as we continue to make strides in the treatment of cancer itself, we need to understand that dealing with cancer on a psychological level as well often greatly improves the physical outcome for everyone.
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