Facing Cancer With a Positive Attitude

September 29, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Brett Eric Lewis, M.D., PhD contributes to topics such as Cancer Care.

Stephen Abo, D.O. contributes to topics such as Hematology.

A cancer diagnosis can inspire many emotions, ranging from fear and anger to sadness or determination. Everyone reacts differently to the news that they have cancer, and everyone’s outlook as they pursue treatment is unique to them. Many factors that are specific to your experience will influence how you perceive a cancer diagnosis. If you or a loved one is faced with cancer, you may have a preconception about what treatment and survival will be like.

There is no correct or normal attitude to have when living with cancer. “Everyone deals with tragedy and illness differently,” says Stephen Abo, D.O., an oncologist at Mountainside Medical Center.

What Can a Positive Attitude Do?

Fighting for a positive attitude can indirectly benefit your health. Mountainside radiation oncologist Brett Lewis, M.D., Ph.D. says that people undergoing cancer treatment with a positive outlook may be able to maximize the effectiveness of their treatment.

“The treatments we have are not always easy to get through, and your attitude matters because it can play out in your actions,” Dr. Lewis says. “When we know a treatment works if given on consecutive days, but you deliberately introduce treatment breaks, patients do worse. If the going gets rough and a patient decides to stay home, they are introducing a treatment delay or break that may be detrimental to their outcome.”

How to Maintain a Positive Attitude

It’s always important to maintain good mental and emotional health. People dealing with a cancer diagnosis may find that talking to a counselor, other cancer patients or a support group can help them work through the many new emotions their diagnosis brings.

Stress can also have an influence on physical health. “Stress affects the immune system, and the immune system affects cancer control,” Dr. Lewis says. When people experience stress, their body produces hormones that help them respond to the stressor. If these hormones are not regulated because stress is chronic, they can cause internal inflammation, which creates an environment conducive to cancer growth.

To help manage stress, choose from some of many stress-reducing techniques:

  • Yoga
  • Walking or exercising
  • Meditation
  • Aromatherapy
  • Art therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Support groups

It is normal to feel any number of negative emotions and stress when dealing with a cancer diagnosis, and your emotions may shift from day to day. Be kind to yourself, and prioritize your mental and emotional well-being.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.