Many people who have experienced a cancer diagnosis grapple with depression, fear and anxiety, as they struggle through the physical, mental and emotional toll of cancer. A patient may feel hopeless after receiving poor test results, worried about medical bills and stressed about the disruptions cancer can pose for one’s personal and professional lives.
Patients confronting these challenges should actively seek help. From cancer financial assistance to individual or group counseling, resources abound to alleviate some of the pressures of cancer. However, new research shows that these negative emotions that are a side effect of cancer may actually not be all that bad.
A study from Concordia University and University of Toronto found that feelings of anger and guilt inspired cancer patients to make changes in their lives that ultimately benefitted their overall heath and well-being. Researchers surveyed 145 breast cancer survivors and tested their saliva samples for a year, focusing on cortisol levels, linked to stress and mood.
Throughout the study, they examined the women’s changing moods, amount of activity, cortisol levels and other factors. Ultimately, they reported that women who reported negative feelings initially were later more likely to make positive choices regarding their health and physical activity. Researchers suggested that our bodies are programmed to adapt to emotions like guilt and fear with positive decision-making.
“Although negative emotions have a bad reputation and have been linked to disease, they are also ‘designed’ to produce adaptive behaviors,” Concordia researcher Dr. Carsten Wrosch told Science Daily.
Many women who were struggling with these emotions committed themselves to developing new goals and actively strove to meet them through diet, exercise and more.
The study highlights the important link between emotional and physical health. Women who invested in their physical health eventually experienced less stress and fewer negative emotions, a trend that researchers note is associated with better health outcomes in the long run.
The research should also provide solace for cancer patients grappling with the familiar feelings of depression. While resources like cancer financial-assistance programs give patients a helping hand with the logistical challenges of cancer, the study found that many patients are also equipped to confront the emotional challenges.