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Emotional Well-being Has No Influence On Cancer Survival, Study Suggests

Date:
October 22, 2007
Source:
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Summary:
Researchers have found that emotional well-being is not an independent factor affecting the prognosis of patients with head and neck cancers. The question of whether or not the mind, through psychological state and emotional status, has the ability to heal organic disease in the body continues to be reviewed and tested in human health research. A large body of evidence strongly suggests that, for life-threatening diseases such as advanced cancer, it does not.
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Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found that emotional well-being is not an independent factor affecting the prognosis of patients with head and neck cancers.

"The belief that a patient's psychological state can impact the course and outcome of their cancer is one that has been prominent among patients and medical professionals, alike," says James C. Coyne, PhD, Co-Leader, Cancer Control and Outcomes Program, Abramson Cancer Center; Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at Penn; and lead author of the study. "This belief leads people to seek psychotherapy in the hopes of promoting survival. While there can be lots of emotional and social benefits of psychotherapy, patients should not seek such experiences solely on the expectation that they are extending their lives."

Study participants were enrolled in two Radiation Oncology Group clinical trials and completed a baseline measure of quality of life questionnaire which included an Emotional Well-Being subscale. The outcome measure was overall survival.

The study sample included 1,093 patients, and of this group, 646 died during the length of the study. With the coupling of this large sample and the uniformity of treatment and quality of care that is required in a clinical trial, this is one of the methodologically strongest studies in this area to-date.

The researchers found that emotional status was not a predictor of survival among this population. Additionally, no effects were observed when the researchers examined interactions between emotional well-being and study protocol, gender, primary cancer site, or stage of cancer. Therefore, the study reports that "this psychologic variable neither affected progression or death directly, nor functioned as a lurking variable."

"While this study may not end the debate, it does provide the strongest evidence to-date that psychological factors are not independently prognostic in cancer management," says Dr. Coyne.

Reference: Article: "Emotional Well-Being Does Not Predict Survival in Head and Neck Cancer Patients: A Radiation Therapy Oncology Group Study," James C. Coyne, Thomas F. Pajak, Jonathan Harris, Andre Konski, Benjamin Movsas, Kian Ang, Deborah Watkins Bruner, Cancer; Published Online: October 22, 2007 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.23080); Print Issue Date: December 1, 2007.

Additional study authors are Thomas F. Pajak, PhD, American College of Radiology; Jonathan Harris, MS, American College of Radiology; Andre Konski, Fox Chase Cancer Center; Benjamin Movsas, Fox Chase Cancer Center; Kian Ang, MD, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; and Deborah Watkins Bruner, PhD, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania.


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University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "Emotional Well-being Has No Influence On Cancer Survival, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071022070143.htm>.
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. (2007, October 22). Emotional Well-being Has No Influence On Cancer Survival, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071022070143.htm
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "Emotional Well-being Has No Influence On Cancer Survival, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071022070143.htm (accessed May 23, 2017).

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