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Cancer and Stress A Deadly Duo That Doctors and Patients Must Manage Together

Research warns of a vicious cycle between stress, cancer, and microbes that starts at the moment of diagnosis By Amy Denney. Epoch Times March 6-12, 2024 Synopsis: T

he Microbe Dimension “Anxiety is particularly troublesome for newly diagnosed cancer patients because stress has been shown to damage the gut microbiome, which is intimately connected to the immune system and predicts the success of some cancer therapies—both tied to prognosis.” “Patients who reported feeling distressed had marked differences In their microbial community that have been linked with various cancers, inflammatory bowel disease, poor treatment responses, and other negative traits that can affect quality of life even beyond treatment.”

Microbiome’s Role in Breast Cancer “Some previous findings related to the microbiome and breast cancer include the following: • Specific microbiomes and the diversity of the microbial community have been linked to chemotherapy response and prognosis in patients. For instance, some bugs indicate a poor response to chemotherapy, whereas others who a beneficial response. Microbiota can predict chemotherapy-associated toxicity. • An imbalance of microbiota, called dysbiosis, may lead to the development of breast cancer. • Manipulating commensal bacteria—including using prebiotics and probiotics—has proven cancer-fighting potential in some patients.”

Could Urgency Be Problematic? “The urgency of treatment is something that may be contributing to stress, said Ms. Holcomb, a board member of the holistic cancer support group Healing Strong, though newer ‘watchful waiting’—or active surveillance—approaches are becoming more acceptable in certain scenarios.” “That urgency is partly because research findings link treatment delays with poorer outcomes for certain cancers. But the causes of those delays are also an important factor. In some cases, delays arise from overload in the medical system, in which case patients are likely worried about their well-being. Delays also arise as a result of patients grappling with highly stressful treatment decisions—another scenario that can worsen outcomes.”

Conclusion Leads to Anxiety “ ‘Decisional distress is important because it is expected to play a role in quality of life and decision satisfaction for breast cancer patients. Negative affectivity surrounding decision-making may contribute to overall distress, and general distress may contribute to negative emotions about treatment decisions’, stated ‘The Patient Education and Counseling’ article.”

The Burden of Weighing Infinite Options “Most oncologists will discuss only medical treatments such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. Within each of these exists a range of additional choices to be made depending on the type of breast cancer, as well as the stage, size, location, and growth rate of the cancer. Approaches may also take into account the health status, age, menopausal status, and preferences of the patient.” “Patients who receive chemotherapy or take Tamoxifen have an elevated risk of stroke as a side effect.”

Metastasis and Stress “A 2016 study in ‘Molecular and Cellular Oncology’ demonstrated how cancer may metastasize when the nervous system is stuck in ‘fight or flight’ or chronically turned on. Neural-inflammatory signal change lymphatic tissues and vasculature, which increases lymph flow.” “It’s not uncommon for doctors to recommend manual lymphatic drainage after surgery for breast patients. Gentle pumping massage by a trained specialist can help the lymph flow properly in situations in which lymphedema—swelling that can occur after surgery—is a risk.” “ ‘Deep breathing can help, too, for both stress reduction and improved lymph flow’, Kelly Kennedy, a certified massage therapist told the Epoch Times. As you exhale out, release the tension in the body and create more space in the body.’ “

Taking Simple Steps “We tell them so much that we can overwhelm them…and the last thing you want is stress’, Ms. Holcomb said. ‘I always tell people when they can’t figure it out, pray for discernment. We tell them to go at their own pace, and if it feels right, they will know. Hope is important. It takes the stress away.’ “

Consider Detoxing “Another important consideration that can affect the microbiome, Ms. Holcomb said, is to cut back on exposure to toxins such as pesticides and flame retardants, antibacterial products, artificial sweeteners, and sources of chronic stress. As soon as they forgive or deal with something chronic from their past, they begin to heal. Two popular methods for this kind of emotional work are cognitive behavioral therapy and journaling.” “A 2021 article in BioPsychoSocial Medicine found that cognitive behavioral therapy—talking to a trained therapist— is effective for mental problems, physical conditions, and behavioral problems.” “People who journal about their most traumatic experiences have been found to experience significant physical and mental health improvements. A 1997 study published in Psychological Science about writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process has been referenced frequently by the Huberman Lab podcast. The study was based on a specific model of writing for 15-30 minutes without ceasing during several sessions.”