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Blow to cancer survival notion

Nice (France), Oct. 20 (AP): New research has dealt a blow to the idea that a positive outlook might improve a patient’s chances of surviving cancer.

However, experts said it is still worthwhile for patients to try to improve their mindsets, perhaps by joining a cancer support group, because it does make them feel better.

The findings were presented yesterday at a meeting of the European Society of Medical Oncology here.

The study evaluated whether psychologist-run support groups kept patients alive. The researchers conducted a systematic review of the related evidence.

“There were some studies out there showing that positive thinking type of support will not only improve your quality of life — which undoubtedly it does, I’m not questioning that — but also will prolong the lives of cancer patients,” said Dr Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter in England who led the study.

“One study from 1989 gets cited over and over and over again, and we knew there were one or two negative studies on this too, so we decided to see if it was true,” he said.

The researchers analysed 11 studies that included a total of 1,500 patients. “The data provided no evidence at all to show that these types of approaches prolong life in cancer patients,” the professor said.

The professor, however, said he favours such efforts because they help cancer patients cope with their disease.

“Clearly the holy grail is to help people live longer, but the flip side is you can’t make data out of nothing,” said Dr Nathan Cherney, a palliative care specialist at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, who was not connected with the research.

“We like to believe we have a ready handle on cancer. We like to believe we have control. But the truth of the matter is the studies seem to indicate that we don’t,” Cherney said.

Perhaps the disappointing findings might help some patients to have more realistic expectations, he said. When patients relapse, they sometimes feel guilty, Cherney added.

“The people who have been drawn in by this power of positive thinking thing — we’ve had situations of husbands berating their wives that they haven’t been doing enough meditation, that they haven’t been thinking positively enough. This whole school of thought created an illusion of control, and when people do poorly, it’s as if to say they haven’t managed to control their tumour well enough, and that’s not fair.”

However, he said the ability of psychological support to improve the lives of cancer patients should not be underestimated.

Experts say doctors are increasingly recognising the value of palliative care, treatments that do not prolong life or fight cancer, but make life better for patients with incurable diseases.

Nice (France), Oct. 20 (AP): New research has dealt a blow to the idea that a positive outlook might improve a patient’s chances of surviving cancer.

However, experts said it is still worthwhile for patients to try to improve their mindsets, perhaps by joining a cancer support group, because it does make them feel better.

The findings were presented yesterday at a meeting of the European Society of Medical Oncology here.

The study evaluated whether psychologist-run support groups kept patients alive. The researchers conducted a systematic review of the related evidence.

“There were some studies out there showing that positive thinking type of support will not only improve your quality of life — which undoubtedly it does, I’m not questioning that — but also will prolong the lives of cancer patients,” said Dr Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter in England who led the study.

“One study from 1989 gets cited over and over and over again, and we knew there were one or two negative studies on this too, so we decided to see if it was true,” he said.

The researchers analysed 11 studies that included a total of 1,500 patients. “The data provided no evidence at all to show that these types of approaches prolong life in cancer patients,” the professor said.

The professor, however, said he favours such efforts because they help cancer patients cope with their disease.

“Clearly the holy grail is to help people live longer, but the flip side is you can’t make data out of nothing,” said Dr Nathan Cherney, a palliative care specialist at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, who was not connected with the research.

“We like to believe we have a ready handle on cancer. We like to believe we have control. But the truth of the matter is the studies seem to indicate that we don’t,” Cherney said.

Perhaps the disappointing findings might help some patients to have more realistic expectations, he said. When patients relapse, they sometimes feel guilty, Cherney added.

“The people who have been drawn in by this power of positive thinking thing — we’ve had situations of husbands berating their wives that they haven’t been doing enough meditation, that they haven’t been thinking positively enough. This whole school of thought created an illusion of control, and when people do poorly, it’s as if to say they haven’t managed to control their tumour well enough, and that’s not fair.”

However, he said the ability of psychological support to improve the lives of cancer patients should not be underestimated.

Experts say doctors are increasingly recognising the value of palliative care, treatments that do not prolong life or fight cancer, but make life better for patients with incurable diseases.

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