Obviously, being diagnosed with cancer can one of the most stressful moments in someone’s life. No matter if the tumor is benign or not, the news can result in significant psychological distress. There has now been evidence that has surfaced that indicates that such heightened levels of stress and anxiety could actually be damaging how well the treatment to fight cancer works. Research that was administered with mice models has discovered that lymphoma advanced quicker when the animals were manipulated to display the physiological responses to stress seen in people.
“When we used immunotherapies on these mice they were not able to respond as effectively as those which had not been stressed,” stated Dr Stephen Mattarollo, coauthor of the study published in Cancer Immunology Research.
“This is because the stress led to poor function against cancer by T-cells, which are very important in the immune system’s control and surveillance of tumors and are a major target in many immunotherapy treatments.”
Interesting enough, they believe that it’s not just immunotherapy that may be negatively affected by stress, but also chemotherapy, on top of other treatments that depend on a patient’s own immune system to help battle cancer. This has resulted in the development of a new discipline within medical science that is called psychoneuroimmunology, which analyzes how the mind, immune system, and the nervous system all work together and interact.
“Absolutely there is now pre-clinical evidence to suggest that treatments and lifestyle interventions to manage or reduce stress levels will improve the chances of these patients responding to therapies,” stated Dr Mattarollo.
The researchers are aware that an advance in stress is normal and an expected response to someone being diagnosed with cancer, and suggests that doctors and medical practitioners should put a stronger focus on ensuring this is managed in an effective way to create the best outcome for their patients.