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Stress and cancer

Marynb
Posts: 1134
Joined: Aug 2012

I don't know if there any studies to corroborate my theory, that prolonged stress can cause cancer. I have seen time and time again in my female friends that they are diagnosed with cancer some number of years after enduring traumatic, long term stress. I know for me, I was diagnosed some years after a horrible, gut wrenching divorce process that dragged on for years.

I am just wondering how many on this board endured severe and prolonged stress some years before being diagnosed. Was your diagnosis some time after a life altering and stressful period of time?

Just thought an informal survey would be interesting.

eihtak
Posts: 809
Joined: Oct 2011

I know I have read articles on the connection to stress and cancer and believe it surely contributes in many cases. I think the relation involves both physical and emotional stress.

I had 5 children in just over six years, worked often a couple jobs and was involved in several community programs. It seemed like before long I was helping with grandbabies.

 In the year before I was diagnosed, my husband was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and needed a bone marrow transplant. My son-in-law was deployed with the Army and in a dangerous area during which time his wife (my daughter) was on bed rest with pregnancy complications. My dad was having general aging problems and needed assistance yet lived 3hrs away. Another daughter having a baby and "daddy" decides that wasn't working for him! I could go on, but stress, yes, yes, yes!!

Consciously trying to lesson stress in my life has been one of the key changes I have made since being treated. I try to look at things from several perspectives, and don't over-analize situations beyond my control. I eat well, exercise, take a few minutes of quiet meditation daily, and turn what I can't handle over to One who can. So far so good!

pializ
Posts: 255
Joined: Nov 2012

Without going into detail, there was considerable & unavoidable stress in the 3 to 4 years before diagnosis. During those years I also developed a few other rare medical problems. I am aware of other people with the same diagnosis having considerable stress before diagnosis. Yep! I think there is a link. 

Liz

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mp327
Posts: 2820
Joined: Jan 2010

I think stress can definitely play a role in developing cancer.  Stress can cause inflammation and that can be a contributor to cancer.  That said, my situation in the years prior to my diagnosis was not stressful at all, especially compared to what others have been through.  So I don't know if it was a factor in my cancer or not, but probably not.  I am generally a high-strung person though and when something does happen, I can be quite anxious. 

jcruz
Posts: 206
Joined: Jan 2013

For me, life was actually going quite well the last few years.  Happy with family and friends, very content with my work life, happily planning my retirement.  I tend to be a bit anxious but I've been that way my whole life and I don't equate my anxiety to major stress.

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lp1964
Posts: 829
Joined: Jun 2013

Obviously there are many causes for cancer: genetic, environmental, nutritional etc. 

But let's concentrate on stress here. I believe the way normal cells turn into cancerous cells is that there is a change in their genetic material, the DNA. Now this happens millions of times a day as the normal cells divide. There is nothing we can do about this, it's random mutation, but thanks god the immun system takes care of these mutant cancer cells. 

Now, this demage to the DNA can be caused by so called free radicals and this is where stress comes in. Free radicals are tiny, very reactive molecules that demage everything in their way: proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and DNA.

The way stress increases the production of these free radicals is contracting the tiny capillaries at the cellular level, so the cells can't get enough oxygen and nutrients to function normally, so they produce a lot of waste and "poisons" Called free radicals. These radicals cause mutations and mutations can be cancerous.

The way antioxidants work that they catch free radicals like nets. People try to eat well, take vitamins and supplements and even if they get absorbed and you have them in your blood, but if stress constricts the capillaries they cannot get into your cells and your cells are basically starving, producing all those free radicals.

In my personal situation I was exposed to a lot of stress: abusive family and school system, communist suppression and fear, bad marriage, stressful work and I always internalized stressed. Didn't express it and manage it, avoided conflicts. I believe that this played a big roll in my illness.

Laz

Marynb
Posts: 1134
Joined: Aug 2012

That makes sense to me. I also am a conflict avoider...even though I chose a career that has me in constant conflict. I did try to change careers, but with the economy, it doesn't look to be possible.

Because I internalize everything, I appear to be calm on the outside. Some situations are just beyond being able to handle any other way. Divorce, a troubled child, then cancer twice. Even though I thought I was handling everything as well as could be expected, it took a terrible toll on my body.

So, what is the answer to handling stress?

lp1964's picture
lp1964
Posts: 829
Joined: Jun 2013

Well, I believe I chose a very stressful profession too even though I love it.

Handling stress of course is a very complex and challenging task and now that we are dealing with cancer there is no let up.

Handling stress has a physical and mental aspect to it. We have to eat right and excercise.

The way I see the mental aspect of it is like a cup with a hole on the bottom where your capacity to deal with stress gets depleted. This whole is representing bad people and events in your life: bad relationships (personal, professional), financial, health problems. You can make this hole smaller by eliminating bad people and situations in your life and slow down the depletion.

You can also increase your capacity to fight stress is by filling up your cup with good people, special events and positive mental approach where you systematically seek out good people and events, you stop and appreciate them with gratitude. Faith is also a great way to fill up your cup. 

This cup constantly gets depleted every day and you have to fill it back up in the morning when God listens and keep filling it up all day long. You must conclude every day as a good day, before you go to sleep (when you can talk to God when he listens again).

It's a process, it's an attitude, it's work. 

What do you think?

Laz

Marynb
Posts: 1134
Joined: Aug 2012

Yes, yes, I like that. It is so difficult though. I do try to stay in faith and my relationship with God has grown since I was first diagnosed with cancer. Still, it is tough to balance it. I have been trying to change careers and work more on the nonadversarial side of the law. So far, I am not having much luck getting others to see me in a different light. I am about to step back into the rat race and I am terrified that I will get swept up in it again. I have to make a living and there is no way around the stress of practicing law. I must really try to cultivate relationships that are positive and healthy for me. I need to make those changes! I will really try. I am very grateful for even the smallest things now.

Thanks for the input. It really helps.

Mary

lp1964's picture
lp1964
Posts: 829
Joined: Jun 2013

Last year I was working at a very stressful office. Even though I loved it, was very successful, growing and making incredible money, somewhere I knew I can't do this for too long. I fainted in August and was on disabilty for months. Just when I was ready to start over and found a position that I could imagine that would work, I got diagnosed. This job is less stressful, but I'm constantly afraid if I'm gonna be able to hang onto it with my surgery coming up in a month. I have major financial obligations plus my ex is suing me for more money. At work I can perform my duties, but with the chemo treatment it takes everything out of me. But I have to keep going on.

I always say there is a thousand good things for every bad. But you have to persue those and appreciate them. I try to keep my new wife infront of me, my daughter even though she is a pest sometimes, my beautiful home, my car, the food I have, my clothes etc. Even this stupid chemo that makes me feel so aweful i try to be grateful for, because it got rid of my pain and can save my life. I started getting closer to god as well on my special way.

After my diagnosis I lost all my belief in fairness of life or anything making sense at all. I have to amplify the things and people in my life is worth living for. 

It is hard, but we have to fill that cup every day, notice and appreciate that it's full and try to make that hole on the bottom smaller so it won't be drained so fast. Is it ever gonna be perfect? No. But that's the only way that makes it worth living.

Laz

TraceyUSA
Posts: 125
Joined: May 2013

I never thought about the relationship between stress and cancer until I was at a doctor's office recently and one of the nurses mentioned it.  When I think about it, I was very stressed & worried about year or so prior to my diagnosis.  I internalize most things and believe that this did contribute to a weakend immune system that allowed the cancer to take hold. 

lizdeli's picture
lizdeli
Posts: 520
Joined: Jul 2009

I think of the correalation often. I was diagonosed in 2009.  In 2008 I was in a very stressful job (in Financial Services during the market crash). Shortly before that I was moving out of state for a new job, trying t find a home, studying for two mandatory and very intense securities exams, starting a new job and traveling around the country on business and remodeling the home we finally purchased. That was within a 6 month period.  Then the market crashed. Prior to all of that I had lost my Mom unexpetcantly.  I think alll combined, it had to be connected. 

Liz

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