Women blame stress for their breast cancer, attribute positive attitude for remission

March 06, 2001

Ask women what caused their breast cancer, and the most common answer will be stress, an unfounded belief that can affect how these women approach their treatment and survival.

In a study of nearly 400 breast cancer survivors who had been disease-free for an average of nine years, 42 percent cited stress as one of the main causes of their breast cancer.

This was many more than the 27 percent of the women who felt genetics was involved, the 26 percent who attributed a role to environmental factors, 24 percent who blamed hormones and 16 percent who thought diet was a contributing factor; the scientific evidence supporting these factors as potential causes of breast cancer is far stronger than that for stress.

Sixty percent of the women also felt that a positive attitude helped them keep the breast cancer from returning, followed by diet (50 percent), healthy lifestyle (40 percent), exercise (40 percent), stress reduction (28 percent), prayer (26 percent), complementary therapies (11 percent), luck (4 percent) and tamoxifen (4 percent).

The conviction that stress caused cancer or that a positive attitude has kept their breast cancer from recurring may give women a sense of control over the disease, say Donna E. Stewart, MD, and her associates at University Health Network and the University of Toronto. This belief can be beneficial when it helps women switch to a low-fat diet or exercise more, but can backfire in a feeling of "personal failure" if the disease returns.

The study will be published in the March issue of Psycho-Oncology.

They found that the women who believed their cancer was caused by stress were more likely to use complementary therapies and anti-depressants and were less likely to smoke, suggesting that women's beliefs about their disease may be "associated with specific health behaviors used to combat the illness," the researchers say.

They mailed questionnaires to 500 women who had been disease-free for at least 2 years. The questionnaires were returned by 378 of the women. Of those, 322 answered the question on what they thought caused their disease, and 330 answered the question on what kept it from returning.

The questionnaire also asked the women what advice they would give another woman who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. More than half (52 percent), said they would tell the woman to have hope, have courage and be positive. And 58 percent said they would take more control of their treatment if they had to relive the experience.

The researchers recommend that health care professionals talk to women about their beliefs. The patient's "views may assist in understanding how she perceives her condition, in encouraging lifestyle changes, and in framing disease management in meaningful ways that give a greater sense of personal control," said Stewart, who is professor and chair of women's health.
Psycho-Oncology is a bimonthly international journal devoted to the psychological, social and behavioral dimensions of cancer. Published by John Wiley, it is the official journal of the American, British and International Psycho-Oncology Societies. Contact Jimmie Holland, MD, Co-Editor, at 212-739-7051 for information.

Center for Advancing Health

Related Breast Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Oncotarget: IGF2 expression in breast cancer tumors and in breast cancer cells
The Oncotarget authors propose that methylation of DVDMR represents a novel epigenetic biomarker that determines the levels of IGF2 protein expression in breast cancer.

Breast cancer: AI predicts which pre-malignant breast lesions will progress to advanced cancer
New research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, could help better determine which patients diagnosed with the pre-malignant breast cancer commonly as stage 0 are likely to progress to invasive breast cancer and therefore might benefit from additional therapy over and above surgery alone.

Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.

Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.

More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.

Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.

Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.

Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.

Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.

Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.

Read More: Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.