This may improve your chances of surviving cancer

This may improve your chances of surviving cancer

A new study suggests chemotherapy patients are more likely to live longer if they interact with other chemo patients during treatments.

The study from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom reviewed electronic medical records from 2000 to 2009 from two major hospitals in the UK’s National Health Service.

Researchers found cancer patients were more likely to survive for five years or more after chemotherapy if they interacted during chemotherapy with other patients who survived for five years or more. Conversely, patients who were around those who did not survive for more than five years were more likely to die earlier themselves.

The researchers didn’t study why the difference occurred, but hypothesize that it may be related to stress response.

“When you’re stressed, stress hormones such as adrenaline are released, resulting in a fight or flight response,” says Jeff Lienert, lead author in NHGRI’s Social and Behavioral Research Branch and a National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program fellow, in a news release. “If you are then unable to fight or fly, such as in chemotherapy, these hormones can build up.”

Lienart theorizes the effect of visitors on cancer patients undergoing therapy would likely be similar. He says positive social support during moments of great stress is crucial.

“People model behavior based on what’s around them,” says Lienert. “For example, you will often eat more when you’re dining with friends, even if you can’t see what they’re eating. When you’re bicycling, you will often perform better when you’re cycling with others, regardless of their performance.”

Dr. Arpi Thukral, a radiation oncologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says she stresses the importance of staying social and active to her patients.

“Social interaction and social support during cancer treatment makes the treatment easier to get through,” she says. “Whether it be support with rides, meals, someone to talk to who will listen, or just a friend to sit with them during chemo, it helps to know you have people in your life to help you through the diagnosis and treatment.”

According to the study, the difference between a patient being isolated during chemo and being surrounded by other patients who later had good survival rate was a 1.5 percent improvement, which translates to 75 more survivors out of every 5,000 patients.

Thukral says she encourages patients to continue working at their job and carry on with their normal daily activities, as it can help them manage fatigue, anxiety and depression. Proper self-care, exercise, nutrition and a general healthy lifestyle are also important for good outcomes.

“I think it also helps to listen to stories of other women and men going through the treatment, which is the basis of cancer support groups. It helps the patient feel less alone in their journey of treatment and likely leads to less depression and anxiety which, in turn, motivates them to complete therapy.”

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  1. So what does that mean for people who aren’t going to survive 5 years or more? cancer patients can’t ask each other ,”so how long have you survived?” Yes, I can see how its helpful to know and speak with the people who are surviving longer, its encouraging. But what about those who wont’? Who is supposed to talk to them??

  2. I totally agree, I started with lung cancer, with surgery and chemo in 2009, after which 1 year later adrenal cancer and cyber knife treatment, and each of the following 4 years cancer in the nodes so I had either cheno or radiation. I joined a cancer group after the lung cancer and here it is now 2017 and have been cancer free for 2 years, Talking with other people at our Survivors and Thriving meetings has given me great support, also all the prayers helped to. Join a cancer group it does make a big difference.

  3. I can’t imagine anything worse than having to be around other cancer patients. This idea that we (as cancer patients) benefit from others “like us” is nonsense. Leave me alone. Please.

About the Author

Nathan Lurz
Nathan Lurz

Nathan Lurz, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. He has nearly a decade of professional news experience as a reporter and editor, and a lifetime of experience as an enthusiastic learner. On the side, he enjoys writing even more, tabletop games, reading, running and explaining that his dog is actually the cutest dog, not yours, sorry.