By Dr. Meenu Walia, Oncology,
Stress is common these days due to fast-paced lifestyles and hectic work culture. However, it is essential to keep stress levels under check, as excessive stress can lead to a range of health problems. While hypertension and cardiovascular diseases are disorders that are more commonly linked with stress, cancer can also result from the same in rare cases.
The stress itself may not directly lead to cancer in most of these cases, but it can lead to certain habits which in turn can alleviate the risk of cancer. For instance, excessive drinking and smoking are common in people suffering from stress. These are some of the worst habits to have if you are trying to avoid cancer.
How can stress affect people with cancer?
Stress is much more dangerous for people already suffering from cancer as it raises the risk of the condition getting worse and also the rate of progression of the tumor growth. It is difficult to manage this stress as it is caused by the physical, emotional and social effects of the disease. A good doctor may be helpful in managing the stress related to the treatment. However, cancer treatment is generally quite costly and the possible financial burden from the disease may further add to the stress experienced by the patient and his/her family.
Research performed with mice suggested that stress can have a substantial effect on the rate of growth of the tumor and its ability to metastasize. In this particular experiment, the mouse with the human tumor was kept isolated from other mice. This increased the stress levels in the said mouse, which in turn alleviated the disease. Another experiment looked at human subjects. Women with breast cancer were prescribed beta blockers which manage stress hormones. The study revealed that women on the stress-managing medication showed improvement with regard to their cancer symptoms.
How to cope with stress during cancer?
The best way to control stress during your cancer treatment is to keep a good social environment. Patients who surround themselves with close friends and family will suffer from much lesser stress. Such social interactions will also help the patient avoid depression and anxiety caused by the disease. A cancer patient should also take time out to learn and practice yoga and meditation techniques. Getting involved with social support groups may also help with the stress. Lastly, if none of the other techniques work, medication may is necessary to keep cancer in check.