(NaturalNews) Monty Python, in his hit song, asks us to "always look on the bright side of life". Recent research in the United States has revealed a very tangible benefit of a bright outlook – reduced cancer pain and fatigue.
Cancer – A Feared Disease
There are many aspects of cancer which makes it such a frightening disease. For example, it often does not exhibit symptoms until the time when most people think it is "too late" to do anything. This makes it almost a silent killer.
It makes people feel helpless, and cancer sometimes spread very rapidly. It seems to afflict anyone, anywhere, too.
Then there is the little matter of the pain which cancer brings, in particular during its latter stages, and also for certain types of cancer, such as bone cancer, liver cancer and pancreatic cancer.
The pain and fatigue which cancer patients often suffer from can badly affect their quality of life as well as their ability to function, not just physically, but also mentally.
Many protocols and therapies, both conventional and "alternative", are used to reduce and manage pain and fatigue caused by cancer. Some of these include pain-killing drugs, foot reflexology, massage and acupuncture.
Now, research conducted by Dr Margot E Kurtz and her team of colleagues from the Michigan State University in East Lansing has found that cancer patients with more optimistic outlooks were better able to manage their cancer pain, while those patients who had a strong sense of mastery, or control over their environment, experienced less severe fatigue on top of being able to better manage their pain.
Details of Study
The study looked at the personality traits, such as dispositional optimism and mastery, of 214 cancer patients who were undergoing chemotherapy, to see how they affect the patients' ability to manage the severity of their cancer fatigue and pain.
Participants of the study were put through a 10-week symptom control intervention program, with the help of a nurse. They were interviewed three times – at the start of the study, after 10 weeks at the end of the intervention program, and again after 16 weeks, to get a sense of their emotional states.
Findings of Study
The study, which was published in the July 2008 issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, found that those participants who had higher levels of mastery reported feeling less severe pain as well as lower levels of fatigue.
On top of that, participants who had a more optimistic outlook also experienced less severe pain, although in this case, higher levels of optimism did not translate to less severe fatigue.
These findings were adjusted for other important factors, such as age, gender, cancer location, stage of the disease, and other health issues which may be afflicting the participants.
Additional findings of the study include less severe cancer pain for those patients who were older and those with fewer health issues on top of their cancer diagnosis, while the latter group also reported lower levels of fatigue.
Further, the study team reported not much difference in the degree of optimism and mastery detected between patients whose cancers were detected early and those who were suffering from late stage disease. This is an important point as it rules out, to some degree, the possibility that optimistic attitudes may have been caused by less severe disease and pain, rather than vice versa.
Along similar lines, it was found that the number of additional health issues on top of cancer did not seem to influence the baseline levels of optimism and mastery of the subjects.
What Can Be Done
The study team suggested that clinicians could look out for such traits in cancer patients, and work with them to help them use these traits to better cope with their cancer symptoms.
"These findings underscore the need for physicians and nurses involved in the care of cancer patients to recognize, encourage, promote, and take advantage of these traits in their patients to help them more effectively manage their cancer care, so that they ultimately can achieve a better quality of life during the sequelae of the cancer experience," the study team concluded.
On a personal level, cancer patients and their loved ones need to do more to help improve the emotional outlooks of cancer sufferers. Read jokes, watch comedies, laugh, hang out with and talk to positive people, pray, meditate, go for counseling – do anything to raise one's levels of optimism and mastery.
According to the finds of this Michigan study, this can help one deal with cancer pain and fatigue. In addition, much as some factions of conventional medicine may disagree, there are many of us who actually believe that such an outlook can in fact improve one's chances of defeating the disease.