Saturday, January 1, 2011

Writing can reduce stress of cancer

Encouraging cancer patients to write down their deepest fears about the disease may improve their quality of life, a United States study has revealed.

A writing clinician, Nancy Morgan, approached patients waiting in a clinic at a cancer centre in Washington DC.

According to the BBC, half of those who took part said the exercise changed the way they thought about the illness, according to the journal, The Oncologist. Younger people, and those recently diagnosed, were most likely to benefit. Thoughts and feelings, or the cognitive processing and emotions related to cancer, are key writing elements associated with health benefits.

Morgan developed her role as part of the Arts and Humanities Programme at the Lombardi Centre.  Her “expressive writing” exercise, lasting just 20 minutes, posed questions to leukaemia or lymphoma patients about how the cancer had changed them and how they felt about those changes.

When those taking part were contacted again a few weeks later, 49 per cent said that the writing had changed their thoughts about their illness, while 38 per cent said their feelings towards their situation had changed. While there was no evidence of direct impact of the session on their illness, where the patients had reported greater changes in their mindset during the writing, this could be linked to more positive reports of quality of life given to their doctors during follow-up appointments.

Ms Morgan said, “Thoughts and feelings, or the cognitive processing and emotions related to cancer, are key writing elements associated with health benefits, according to previous studies.

Dr. Bruce Cheson, the head of haematology at Lombardi, said: “I’m pleased to see that so many of our patients were interested in this kind of therapy. “Our study supports the benefit of an expressive writing program and the ability to integrate such a programme into a busy clinic.” 

Be a helper to a cancer diagnosed patient today by encouraging him or her to be writing their feelings about the deadly disease and the outcome of these researches will be their lots.

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Olufemi

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