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Positive results can come from bad feelings in cancer patients

Harold Mandel's picture
Bad and good feelings

Researchers say that bad feelings can motivate cancer patients to take positive actions.


Cancer is a devastating diagnosis which brings with it fears of possible intense pain and suffering and premature death. However with aggressive treatment there are many cures of cancer.

Cancer patients may actually be motivated by bad feelings

There are many alternative treatments which help with cancer treatment such as vitamin C. When it comes to a consideration of the mind/body interaction in the treatment of cancer Concordia University reports that cancer patients may actually be motivated by bad feelings.

Positive health habits can be inspired by the anger and guilt which often accompanies a diagnosis of cancer. Low feelings are commonly seen with cancer. Anxiety, guilt and distress are generally seen with the struggles associated with being hit with a diagnosis of cancer.

Feelings of anger or guilt can spark of a desire in people to set new goals

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Paradoxically the apparent negative emotions experienced with cancer may turn out to be good for patients according to researchers from Concordia and the University of Toronto. Feelings of anger or guilt can spark off a desire in people to set new goals and to take part in more moderate-to-vigorous exercise, says Andrée Castonguay, who is the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in Concordia’s Faculty of Arts and Science.

The study looked at patients recently diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. It was observed that the capacity of participants to set new goals, such as starting to go for brisk walks, was facilitated by the beneficial effect of having negative emotions and prevented the development of adverse effects due to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Negative emotions have been designed to produce behaviors which are adaptive

The complex relationship between emotions and health is highlighted by this study. Concordia psychology professor Carsten Wrosch has said that in spite of the bad reputation of negative emotions in regard to disease, these negative emotions have nevertheless actually been designed to produce behaviors which are adaptive.

Although recent guidelines have encouraged survivors of breast cancer to take part in healthy lifestyle behaviors, many survivors do not engage in the levels which are recommended. It has been suggested that cancer survivors should get 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity weekly to lower the risk of developing further health problems associated with immune function, weight management and overall quality of life. The researchers have concluded that there are some negative emotions that can play a vital role in the direction of adaptive health behaviors among some survivors of cancer.

This study has been published in Health Psychology. The researchers have concluded negative affect may trigger adaptive health behaviors in breast cancer survivors. It seems likely this may also be seen with patients suffering from other types of cancer. So there may be a lot to feel good about when cancer patients experience negative emotions.