Is there a connection between stress and cancer?
"How people get cancer is a mystery," says Dennis Buttimer, M.Ed., CEAP, RYT, a facilitator at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. "Lifestyle and genetics play a role, but there is always the x-factor. Stress is somewhere in the mix."
While science has not proven stress causes cancer, these behaviors are cancer risk factors and may hinder your ability to heal quickly from treatment.
"Cancer is inflammatory, like many disease processes," says Buttimer. "When we are stressed, our bodies are in fight-or-flight mode. Our adrenal glands and kidneys take a pounding, which isn't helpful when we are trying to heal from cancer and treatment. When the body is relaxed, our natural repair mechanisms can work properly."
Creating an anti-cancer environment
"If you have cancer, it is important you do whatever you can to create an anti-cancer environment by reducing stress," he says. These tactics include:
Avoiding negative or stressful scenarios, people, books or television shows
Reading inspiring books, magazines or articles
Buttimer references a recent study by Duke University where researchers found that participants who practiced meditation or listened to calming music while undergoing a needle biopsy had dramatically less pain, anxiety and fatigue.
"It shows the influence of the mind-body connection," he says.
The importance of boundaries when managing stress
Whether you are a patient or a caregiver, understanding and establishing your boundaries is key for reducing stress.
"It's okay to have boundaries and minimize or eliminate sources of stress from your life, such as the news, negative people or violent television shows," says Buttimer. "We can't eliminate all negativity, but we can be aware. Be observant of what you let come into your mind. The mind is strong, but it can also be very fragile."
He adds, "When you take care of yourself and manage your stress levels, you are giving your body the chance to heal."
Learn additional stress reduction techniques.