16 April 2000
Positive Thinking does kill cancer cells, research shows
by Louise Tickle
THE power of positive thought can help cancer patients live longer by boosting their immune systems, according to new research.
The research, presented at a British Psychological Society conference yesterday, described how women diagnosed with cancer and trained in ‘relaxation’ techniques developed more cells equipped to fight the disease.
Professor Leslie Walker of Hull University worked with 80 women who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. All received normal treatment, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and surgery.
But half were also trained in relaxation techniques and guided imagery, where they visualised their bodies’ own defences fighting and overcoming cancer cells.
By the end of the 37-week trial, the second group a showed strengthened immune systems. Levels of the white cells that play a vital role in fighting disease increased and the ‘killer cells’ which scout out and destroy infected or cancerous cells also became more active. Certain types of stress suppress the immune system. Walker said:
‘Some of the muscle-relaxing exercises were specifically developed to help people “switch off” their natural “fight/flight” response to high levels of stress. This results in real changes in internal organs, and also affects white blood cells.’
Throughout the usually distressing post-diagnosis and treatment period, the 40 women doing relaxation and visualisation therapy reported real improvements in their quality of life.
Walker said: ‘Treatments for cancer are often invasive and very upsetting. Developing straightforward techniques that nurses can teach to patients throughout the NHS means that the benefits can be widespread.’
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