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Stress and cancer

Tina Brown's picture
Tina Brown
Posts: 1054
Joined: Nov 2009

Does anyone else here think that STRESS may have triggered off their cancer? I underwent an extremely stressful time the year before I was diagnosed.

1. My mother suffered and died of bowel cancer & I helped nurse her at home & it was one of the hardest things I have done.
2. My marriage ended
3. A man who I had fallen in love with ended our relationship. He was the love of my life and I was completely destroyed by this.

A year later I was diagnosed with cancer.

It all seems such a tragic co-incidence but I often wonder whether extreme stress can trigger the cancer cells to start growing? Anyone else have similar stories?

Tina

Pennymac02's picture
Pennymac02
Posts: 336
Joined: Aug 2010

Tina:
From the National Cancer Institute:

Can stress increase a person’s risk of developing cancer?
Studies done over the past 30 years that examined the relationship between psychological factors, including stress, and cancer risk have produced conflicting results. Although the results of some studies have indicated a link between various psychological factors and an increased risk of developing cancer, a direct cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven (3, 4).

Some studies have indicated an indirect relationship between stress and certain types of virus-related tumors. Evidence from both animal and human studies suggests that chronic stress weakens a person’s immune system, which in turn may affect the incidence of virus-associated cancers, such as Kaposi sarcoma and some lymphomas (5).

More recent research with animal models (animals with a disease that is similar to or the same as a disease in humans) suggests that the body’s neuroendocrine response (release of hormones into the blood in response to stimulation of the nervous system) can directly alter important processes in cells that help protect against the formation of cancer, such as DNA repair and the regulation of cell growth (6).

Hmm. I say thats a big YES.
Penny

Tina Brown's picture
Tina Brown
Posts: 1054
Joined: Nov 2009

Well thank-you, I just knew it. The weaknening of the immune system makes a lot of sense. This is one good reason to avoid stress in your life if at all posible.

Tina

terato's picture
terato
Posts: 384
Joined: Apr 2002

Since I was diagnosed in 1980, I endured long-term job loss, divorce, the serious illnesses and eventual deaths of both my parents, and the suicide of my only sibling by hanging, which I discovered. I was 28 at the time of diagnosis, just turned 59, and am still cancer-free! If stress inevitably resulted in cancer, I would have probably suffered recurrence by now!

Love, Courage, and Peace of Mind!

Rick

Tina Brown's picture
Tina Brown
Posts: 1054
Joined: Nov 2009

Thank-you for your reply. I am so sorry you have had such sadness in your life. If my maths are right you have been in remission for 30 years? That is amazing.

Tina

ms.sunshine
Posts: 710
Joined: Mar 2010

If stress causes cancer then most Americans would have cancer. We all are under a certain degree of stress. Some more than others. I have never been a person who stresses, but I was dx with cancer last October. On the other hand my sister is obsessed she is a constant worrier, but is cancer free.

terato's picture
terato
Posts: 384
Joined: Apr 2002

You are darn right! Who in America is not undergoing stress these days? What about those who have been unemployed for two years or more and have lost their homes? Or, those who have sons, daughters, or spouses in Iraq of Afghanistan on their third or fourth tour of duty? Or, people along the Gulf who have been battered by hurricanes and oil rig spills? We should be having a cancer epidemic with all the stresses endured by average Americans, but we aren't! It is not the stress that results in illness, it is how we cope with it, along with a myriad of other factors.

"If it's in your genes, switch to wearing Dockers!"

Love, Courage, and Peace of Mind!

Rick

madiarsg's picture
madiarsg
Posts: 17
Joined: Aug 2010

I have to say, for me, stress does have an effect, maybe not on the cancer, but on the symptoms. Recently, I had a couple of very stressful days, worrying and panicking, and my pain skyrocketed, symptoms increased. Stress puts a lot of pressure on the body and symptoms, and there are those that can process the stress better than others. That plays an important role, I believe, in how stress will effect the cancer.

terato's picture
terato
Posts: 384
Joined: Apr 2002

and, causes my stomach to tighten up. It takes the mind away from things that would, otherwise, be enjoyable. I just don't believe that "stress", by itself, can precipitate cancer, or I would have relapsed years ago.

But what do I know, I'm only a 30-year survivor!

Love, Courage, and Peace of Mind!

Rick

Pennymac02's picture
Pennymac02
Posts: 336
Joined: Aug 2010

Actually, the article doen't say stress causes cancer, it says it weakens the immune system. As someone who just went through a battle with shingles and got diagnosed with high blood pressure I recognized that stress didn't cause that, but my weakened immune system made me more vunerable to it. Its not a cause, but is is one of the factors. Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer, and not everyone with lung cancer has smoked. Does any one have a doubt though that cigarettes contribute to the cancer? I'm just saying...

Tina Blondek's picture
Tina Blondek
Posts: 1560
Joined: Nov 2009

I am just saying...I agree with you 100%. Stress does weaken our immune systems which makes our bodies more immune to disease. Cancer thrives on stress. Thank you for posting and best of luck with dealing with the shingles and high blood pressure. I am sure the new meds will be helpful.
Tina

Pennymac02's picture
Pennymac02
Posts: 336
Joined: Aug 2010

The meds are working, Tina, but they are making me loopy as heck, and therefore stressing me out! LOL Sorry--its been a long week....

Tina Brown's picture
Tina Brown
Posts: 1054
Joined: Nov 2009

I get what you are all saying that stress weakens our ability to ward off the growth of cancer. Well that is so interesting because i have also been diagnosed with having BRCA2 which means my body is not as protected against breast / ovarian / pancreatic cancer as people without it. So maybe my stress didn't help matters and prevented my body from protecting me.

Its only a theory as I can fully appreciate people who are cancer free who undergo stress by the bucketful. I suppose the message is to try & stay as stress free as possible to give our bodies a fighting chance.

Tina xx

forme's picture
forme
Posts: 1158
Joined: Aug 2010

Hi Tina,
I would have to say that I think stress does play a big role with cancer. Right now I have a recurrance of thyroid ca, dealing with lymphoma and also dealing with ovarian mass/cyst. The past couple of years have been the hardest ever...

Being a caregiver to my elderly mom.
Having my brother die very suddenly.
Dealing with his estate across the country.
Flying across the country 5 times in a year.
Dealing with attorneys to help fight people trying to steal my brothers estate.
Having an auto accident and needing shoulder surgery and P.T. for a year.
Hearing that my mom in law has stage 4 melanoma.I could go on and on, but you get my point..
Stress is related to cancer..

3Mana
Posts: 829
Joined: Aug 2010

You have really had a rough year and alot of stress. I sure hope that you stay strong and fight your cancer. It's just not fair that you have to deal with this after all that you've been through. I hope you have alot of support from your family & friends. We're all here for you so you can lean on us. "Carole"

bluerose's picture
bluerose
Posts: 1089
Joined: Jul 2009

I have always felt that my cancer was triggered by extreme stress after a particularly tumultuous time for me way back in the early 90ties (stop doing the math you guys, lol). Of course it takes the medical community forever to come up with validating these things but just last night there was a whole Larry King show done on the Human Brain and guess what came up? Stress and disease. Even the treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder came up on that show with the idea of EMDR treatment for it and for a long while EMDR was like voodoo to many in the medical community. I had the treatment and it rid me of a couple of traumatic memories. Try to watch that Larry King show on the Human Brain online at the tv networks site if you can, it aired last night Friday Sept. 17,2010. It had a bit on stress and disease. I don't think the jury is in though, at this point on being conclusive about it but I have my suspicions stress is at the bottom of many of our human woes. More than we know.

I have found things like proper deep breathing techniques (breathing from the diaphram) help as well as meditation twice a day. I took Transcendental Meditation years ago and that works for me but many use prayer or nature sounds to meditate too - whatever works. Yoga is great for stress too as is any excercise but some of us are limited in being able to do too much exercise but any little bit can help I am sure. Doing things for yourself is another stress reliever - even a hot bath alone with a candle and a glass of wine at the end of the day is something else you can do to just relax, anything that you like to help you reduce the stress levels. If all of that fails don't leave it and let it get worse. Look for a good anxiety specialist, I have found for me that psycologists are far more hands on with current issues and can help quite quickly with many anxiety issues - at least get you started on some form of relief quickly that doesn't involve medications.

The medical community could come along so much faster on cancer issues if they simply ASKED A SURVIVOR. lol. Listen to us doctors, we know our bodies. They are slowly listening more and more to us, I have seen a huge leap in meeting survivor's needs through the 23 year span of time I have been dealing with the big 'c'. When I complained of pains or issues I was told, in those first few years, that maybe I should see a shrink and today many of those issues are notably present on symptom lists of late effects after some treatments. Slowly turns the wheel of change. But it's coming. Take heart.

Blessings, Bluerose

DCD1028
Posts: 11
Joined: Jun 2010

Dear Tina,

Cancer has been a part of my life for over 25 years. My mother and daughter were diagnosed with it and sadly i lost both of them. However, i am currently working on a presentation on how stress and anxiety can cause cancer and other diseases that can lead to cancer. I truly believe that it can affect the immune system by lowering it and that is our bodies only defense system against disease.

congoody
Posts: 74
Joined: Jan 2010

the only completely stress free organism is a dead one -
stress does not cause cancer but stress will makes any illness, including cancer, worse -
remember though that most stress scales include weddings and Christmas as stressors -
thank goodness for feeling stress, it means you are alive and that has to be good eh?

terato's picture
terato
Posts: 384
Joined: Apr 2002

The most stressful event in my life was not my cancer diagnosis and treatment, it was finding my brother at the end of an electric cord, and knowing that after dealing with the police, I would have to tell our parents that their youngest son had committed suicide. Yet, I did not relapse, despite the fact that I had started a new job just weeks before and had the sole responsibility of clearing out my brother's apartment and handling all the legal matters regarding his estate.

I adopted two methods of dealing with stress at the time, one healthy, the other not-so-much. I used the step machine at the health club to exercise until my knees hurt, sometimes forgetting how much time had elapsed. Unfortunately, I also used vodka to get to sleep at night, a habit I eventually gave up when I entered grief counseling.

Stress, like grief, are not positive feelings, but the cancer itself produces these feelings and focusing on stress, mental attitude, or any factor other than congenital or biochemical ones, in my very humble opinion, is counter productive and may even produce unrealistic guilt in the patient.

Deal with stress, depression, and anxiety with the help of counselors, therapists, and support groups. Deal with the cancer through your oncologist or hematologist. The latter may cause reason for the former, but I don't believe it works the other way around.

Love, Courage, and Peace of Mind!

Rick

Tina Brown's picture
Tina Brown
Posts: 1054
Joined: Nov 2009

I believe that everyone has cancer cells in their body just laying dormant. I have come to think that stress (in some people) trigger these cells to become active. I suppose it depends entirely on your genes and internal biology.

This is what happened to me. I nursed my mum with bowel and liver cancer and watched her die. I had been having in a love affair and, after my husband found out it ended our marriage. My affair also ended. This all happened within a 2 week period. My life had been tiped upside down and I didn't know what to do so I had a nervous breakdown. Eventually I was able to accept and come to terms with my mum's death and my husband came back to me. 2 out of 3 not bad. But the hardest thing for me was the loss of my lover. I had fallen in love completely and was unable to get over him. Over the next year the pain of this loss manifested itself as a churning pain deep in my stomach. It would come and go and sometimes feel like an ache.

A year later I am diagnosed with PPC (Primary Peritoneal Cancer) The peritoneum is the lining surrounding the stomach and all other internal organs. Strange co-incidence? Or could it possibly be related? I have since been tested for the BRCA gene mutation which pre-disposes ladies to 80% incresed risk of breast cancer and 30% risk of ovarian cancer. (PPC is strongly linked to ovarian cancer)

So I wonder whether I had my cancer cells just waiting for some kind of trigger??

Who really knows.

Thanks for everyone's contribution - they are really interesting

Tina xx

tinktink36's picture
tinktink36
Posts: 3
Joined: Jan 2012

I think that it is awesome that your husband returned to you. Mine left me when I was finished with chemo and I just started radiation he asked me for a divorce it tore me to pieced I lost 40 pounds in 3 weeks and the doctor told me that if I didn't get my emotions under control that I would end up with cancer somewhere else in my body. It took me 9 months to morn him as if he was died then he wanted to come back to hurt me some more and ended up beating me and almost killed me. I had to leave the state and move home because I was just so devastated by all that I had went through. I seen your name and thought to myself what was are the chance 2 Tina Brown's that have similiar experiences. I didn't lose my mom but I lost my dad 2 years prior. My mom is waiting on results for liver cancer now. I pray for you, my family and everyone that has faced and are facing cancer because it is tough to face alone and with your loved ones around watching you in pain. I was told that when I was tramatized those 3 weekends back to back that was what triggered my cancer. I know that everyone has stress but I feel it is all in the way you handle it an I could handle personal stress very well.

Tina L Brown

bluerose's picture
bluerose
Posts: 1089
Joined: Jul 2009

I know that in the case of certain illnesses like schizophrenia for example the onset of it can be brought about by a tremendous stress/shock to the system. With that of course there is a predisposition to the schizophrenia, someone in the genetic line has had it no doubt, but if the person remains trauma free then the schizophrenia is less likely to surface.

If it's true that this extreme stress can bring on a dormant illness then one would have to wonder what else can it do? I think personally we are in the baby stages of really understanding the relevancy of stress to our health and we have a long way to go yet.

It just makes sense. Take any working thing, human or otherwise - like an automobile for instance. Put too much stress on any particular part and the car breaks down - it just makes sense to me that if you put too much stress on the human body - same deal. I know that might seem simplistic but it really does make sense to me.

I agree with someone on here that said that no stress is not possible and that's true of course, we all have some stress in our lives but I do think that it's all about balance - keeping not only the stressors down in our lives but also keeping as much of our life in balance as we possibly can. The body always seeks balance and imbalance causes 'dis-ease'. That's my take on it and I'm sticking to it. lol.

Bluerose

FlDino
Posts: 11
Joined: Nov 2009

As stated here, stress seems to be a factor, but not the only one. I also believe cancer is in the body and it takes certain circumstances to set it off. My wife fell in Dec. of 08 at work and broke 6 ribs and punctured a lung, all on her right side. The end of Oct. 09 she went to the ER with severe back pain and was diagnosed with gallbladder cancer. She passed jan. 16th of this year. Though I believe she died from an infection caused by the dr. who removed her gallbladder I also believe it all was started by her fall. She was always stressed out about not having enough money, or losing her job, etc. also.

Since, I have heard 2 doctors on the radio who have said cancer should not be, that all cancer is preventable and curable, and have given cases to back up such. Though easier said than done, both said reducing stress helps immensely.

Of course that says a lot to us caregivers/surviving spouses who stress out after the loss. I have been taking a few supplements and actually do feel better lately.

I wish you luck in your battle Tina.

Actsassy's picture
Actsassy
Posts: 37
Joined: Nov 2010

I don't know for sure if it does or not but I think it could have in my situation. the year before my dx i went thru some stuff with my daugher and school. it destrtoyed my daughter's self esteem and my respect for adminstration and my bosses. I work at the school. Also my son was getting married and found out that her parents weren't paying for nothing. So maybe some of that played into. Who knows. I do have a lot of stress and anxiety with dealing with my cancer and the fear is always there. I can't seem to get away from that fear. I was dx in may 2009. As of November 2011 I had surgery and I am NED as of right now. I am a stage 4 colon cancer with mets to liver. As i write this i am sitting her with tension in my neck, shoulders and low back pain and it scares the hell out of me. Every new ache and pain does that to me. I guess i will always feel that fear. Oh and did I say i have anxiety/panic attacks too?

I don't know if i helped u or not but just thought I'd put my 2 cents in.

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