In the book 9 Steps for Reversing or Preventing Cancer and Other Diseases (Career Press, 2004), Shivani Goodman argues that her cancer was the product of negative thought patterns—in this case, her subconscious rejection of being a woman. Once she identified her toxic attitudes, Goodman claims, she changed them into healing approaches that created “radiant health.” Numerous selfhelp books similarly imply that a positive attitude can stop cancer in its tracks or at least slow its progression.
Most women who have survived cancer seem to agree. According to surveys,
40 to 65 percent of survivors believe their cancers were caused by stress, and between 60 and 94 percent think they became cancer-free because of their positive attitude.
The weight of the evidence, however, fails to support the notion that optimism is a salve for cancer. Most studies find no connection between cancer risk and either stress or emotions. In fact, in several investigations, researchers observed a lower risk of breast cancer among women who experienced relatively high stress in their jobs, compared with women who experienced relatively low job stress. Scientists have also consistently failed to turn up an association between positive attitude and cancer survival.
For such reasons, journalist and social critic Barbara Ehrenreich adopts a decidedly skeptical stance on the power of mind-set over healing in her book Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (Metropolitan Books, 2009). Further, Ehrenreich rails against the “cancer culture” that pressures people with cancer to believe that being upbeat and cheerful will heal them or at least ennoble them as human beings. Instead Ehrenreich urges people with breast cancer to adopt an attitude of “vigilant realism” and not to bury themselves under a cosmetic veil of cheer. The impotence of a positive outlook in the face of physical ailments calls into question the medical value of support groups and the emotional assistance they provide. Early preliminary studies seemed to suggest that participating in such groups helps to prolong life. But more recent and scientifically solid research, reviewed by University of Pennsylvania psychologist James Coyne and his colleagues, showed that psychological interventions (including support groups) do not extend the lives of cancer patients, although they can enhance their quality of life. People with cancer can relieve their physical and emotional burdens by seeking quality medical and psychological care, connecting with friends and family, and finding meaning and purpose in every moment. They can also take comfort in the now well-established finding that their attitudes, emotions and stressful experiences are not to blame for their illness.
Source of Information : Scientific American Mind March-April 2010