Many times I’ve been a witness or is instrumental in breaking the bad news of a negative diagnosis to someone with cancer – and it is heart-rending. They say the stress of delivering the bad news to their loved ones, friends and other members of their family is double, sometimes triple when the medical diagnosis is Cancer.
Cancer seems to be one of the most feared diseases and the most difficult to deliver in terms of bad news to patients. Palpitations, dry mouth, not to mention the knowledge that one is sick with a disease that up to now has a stigma of being incurable. This very natural reaction works against cancer patients as recent studies show that stress hormones protect growing tumors from getting treated by cancer drugs.
To prove this, researchers from the United Kingdom’s University of Brighton studied a chemotherapy drug that is popularly used to treat breast cancer patients and how it reacts to stress hormones. They discovered that when breast cancer cells were exposed to stress hormones like norepinephrine and cortisol, they generated free radicals which inherently protected the tumors from the effects of the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel.
Moreover, they found that stressed mice who had breast cancer churned out higher levels of nitric oxide-generating enzyme (iNOS) in tumors. Higher iNOS activity turns out to have more aggressive breast cancer.
Application of Stress Reduction Therapy Important
So stress reduction experts asserted that it is highly critical for all cancer patients to undergo at least one form of stress reduction therapy to prevent this occurrence of stress hormones proliferating and protecting cancer cells from happening.
Dr. Melanie Flint, the study’s head researcher, commented: “What I would like to see is that every patient diagnosed with cancer has their stress recognized and their options talked through, and an offer of stress reduction.”
Yoga, Meditation, and Mindfulness – Ways to Combat Stress
The good news is that studies have found several means of stress reduction to be effective in cancer patients that do not involve dosing the body with even more drugs.
The good news is that anxiety experts have recommended ways by which we can reduce the amount of stress generated, especially useful among cancer patients. One of these ways is yoga. A combination of quiet breathing and slow but defined movements can be very helpful in reducing fear, stress, and anxiety in the patient, as well as give some relief from pain and enhance the patient’s strength and flexibility.
A 2011 study revealed that yoga actually enhanced the overall quality of life of breast cancer radiation therapy patients. One of the noted improvements from the breast cancer yoga patients was a reduction in their cortisol levels, a hormone which prevents chemotherapy drugs from working.
Mindfulness-based art therapy also has great success in reducing stress levels among breast cancer patients. In the study, patients who took courses first in breathing and awareness of emotion, followed by art classes managed to express and have a better handle on their emotions. Those who took this therapy had lower scores in anxiety tests than the control group, and lower stress levels.
Meditation was also found to be an impactful approach for cancer patients. A 2014 Canadian study made waves in the oncology community after discovering that cancer support groups who used meditation and yoga changed cancer survivors’ cellular activity in positive ways. Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found out that breast cancer survivors who practiced mindfulness techniques had higher levels of well-being and tranquility, slept better, and experienced lower levels of physical pain.
So, do you have a personal experience with the use of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness art classes or any creative class in the management of stress? Share with us your experience in the comments section below.