I strongly believe a positive mental attitude in stomach cancer patients is important when faced with such a diagnosis. But what is it? What does it mean to you and will it make a difference?
To most people it means hope, optimism and an ability to overcome adversity – something that we as a human race thrive on as every day values.
After all, if we don’t have these three components in life, nothing would really be achieved if you come to think about it right? RIGHT?
Unfortunately there have been no studies in stomach cancer patients although an analysis of people with with the condition was done in 1993 of 167 people to open ended questions about this.
75% of the people who responded agreed that having a good mental attitude can prevent illness and 94% thought that you can help in recovering from illness (1).
The BBC reported (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/710841.stm) on Professor Leslie Walker’s study on 80 women with breast tumors showed a benefit when taught relaxation techniques compared with controls who didn't.
That study showed no change in outcome of illness although there was a change in the white blood cells that normally fight off infection which is a positive.
Coping with malignant disease is not easy, the need for the treatment whether this be curative or palliative treatment wears you down.
It’s a difficult time when your emotions are ‘running high’ and keeping a positive mental attitude is difficult. A study of 80 people showed that 65% were in denial of their disease, 90% had feelings of depression, nervousness and disappointment , 85% reported fear, 70% felt sad and 65% reported anxiety and anger(2).
However, there is hope and this was shown in a systematic review of 8 studies which showed that self-efficiency was associated with better emotional support and coping in people with advanced disease(3).
Religion is at the heart of a lot of peoples faith. A study looked at a group of Israeli Jewish women with breast cancer and that hope was the mediator between the religiosity and coping(4)
Drawing on your own lives experiences may make the difference to you, after all we are all touched by the condition at some point in our lives through relatives, friends and acquaintances.
You may wish to draw on this looking at the good experiences of those who survived and their attitude to it. This is important and something that none of us should neglect.
Now if I said to you “write down a list of positives of having a stomach tumor” what would you write?
If you asked me that question I would write this down and I expect it’s similar to yours (I expect yours is better, but let me know if you can think of others!
Of course there is always a flip side to this. You could write down the negatives, but the issue here is which list do you prefer?
Certainly for me, a positive mental attitude in stomach cancer patients way out ways any negativity, regardless of the outcome of the disease.
PMA in your relatives is equally important as a coping strategy and a way of helping them to feel they are doing something to help you.
Yes, it is a form of coping strategy, but one that is important in so many ways.
Providing unconditional love, support and care at your time of need is showing the very human and spiritual side of a person.
Having that network of social support behind you which you can draw on at any time is comforting which we all need.
Yes this is often your family, but equally it could be a friend or a good neighbour or even someone from a charity or volunteer.
You may need someone to give you a lift for your treatment when you feel tired, you may need someone to provide you with a meal, you may need someone just to pop in and check that you are okay.
It is a way of providing a positive mental attitude in stomach cancer patients.
Terms such as ‘you are going to get through this’, ‘we are with you all the way’, lets fight this are synonymous with both health carers comments and also your relatives I suspect.
The comments are made to you in the hope of reinforcing a belief that anything is achievable - and of course it is!
Equally, it is not there to say if you do this you will get better, rather it is said to make the pathway to health easier.
Many a time I have seen people that defy the odds and survive an illness at a time that you wouldn’t have thought possible in the illness.
So miracles do happen and treatment does work , but not in everyone although everyone should be treated with equality.
I do believe that doctors keeping a positive mental attitude in stomach cancer patients is the right thing to do.
Protagonists are always important in life whatever it is. Taking the opposite view helps to restore balance to the argument and no better example than Professor Siddhartha Mukhergee an oncology physician and researcher at Columbia University who was quoted as saying:
However, I think he is missing the point, particularly when it comes to positive mental attitude in stomach cancer patients.
No one is saying that if you don’t have PMA that you will die. I am sure there have been many people with a negative attitude who still survive the disease.
Your attitude has nothing to do with the pathogenesis of your illness, but it does have a lot to do with your physical and mental well-being. It is everything to do with the wider picture.
You only have to look at people with depression to realize what a negative effect on well being can do to a person.
At the end of the day, regardless of your belief, there has not been enough research in to this and therein lies the problem.
A statement from CancerBackup in 2000, an organization that provided information and counselling for patients (before merging with Macmillan) is still probably the best statement for this moment in time:
I’ll leave you with this thought.
1) Positive mental attitude and health: what the public believes. Bruckbauer et al, Image J Nurs Sch 1993 Winter;25(4):311-5
2) Psychological aspects of the cancer patient's education: thoughts, feelings, behavior, and body reactions of patients faced with diagnosis of cancer. Kilknovac et al. J BUON 2010 Jan-Mar;15(1);153-6
3) Outlook and adaption in advanced cancer: a systematic review. Psychooncology 2010 Dec;19(12):1239-49. doi 10.1002/pon. 1704
4) Religiosity and hope: a path for women coping with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Psychosomatics 2009 Sep-Oct;50(5):525-33.doi: 10.1176/appi.psy.50.5.525