The process of recovery from cancer is also affected by the impact of cancer and its treatment on fundamental biological functioning, which in turn can be affected by psychological factors such as stress. One study tracking cancer survivors found higher incidences of lung disease, heart disease, pain syndromes, and obesity.45 Cancer survivors are more likely than the general population to report being in only fair or poor health, and to have functional and work limitations.46,47 Many cancer survivors eventually die of diseases other than cancer, heart disease being most prevalent. Hence, cardiovascular health is an important consideration for cancer survivors. Cancer patients are at increased risk for cardiac toxicity and damage as a result of primary treatments. Cardiac toxicity is a well-established side-effect of anthracyclines, which are increasingly used in adjuvant therapy of many cancers.48 In addition, radiation- and chemotherapy-related heart disease can lead to congestive heart failure.49,50 Treatment-induced heart damage may become evident years after therapy has been completed51 and there are indications that heart-related side effects of primary cancer treatment can have a dramatic impact on both quality of life and patient survival.50 Thus, it is particularly important to monitor cardiac health in cancer survivors, an aspect of overall health that may be benefited via stress-reduction interventions.
Cancer survivors, by virtue of persistent high levels of both physical and psychological stress, may also be susceptible to the adverse biological effects of elevated stress-related hormones, such as excessive cortisol secretion (e.g., ref. 52) and production of catecholamines such as adrenaline.53,54 Sustained increases in stress hormones can in turn have inhibitory effects on functional immunity.55 For example, elevated cortisol secretion can decrease antibody production, and inhibit natural killer (NK) cell activation,56-58 important aspects of immune functioning that may protect cancer survivors from disease recurrence and other infections. Not surprisingly, compromised immune and neuroendocrine function have been noted in cancer patients (e.g., refs. 59-63), features inimical to recovery from disease. In addition, elevated basal cortisol levels and blunted cortisol responses to acute stress tasks have been observed among some individuals with cancer,64-66 and have been associated with earlier mortality in metastatic breast cancer patients.67
Hence, survivors who have dysregulated neuroendocrine function may be at higher risk for cancer recurrence as well as morbidity and mortality from other causes related to immune system impairment. In sum, for cancer survivors who are at high risk for future health problems, stress-reduction interventions that effectively counteract maladaptive cardiovascular and neuroendocrine function may demonstrate value in terms of mitigating these threats to long-term health.
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Learning About 10 Ways Fight Off Cancer Can Have Amazing Benefits For Your Life The Best Tips On How To Keep This Killer At Bay Discovering that you or a loved one has cancer can be utterly terrifying. All the same, once you comprehend the causes of cancer and learn how to reverse those causes, you or your loved one may have more than a fighting chance of beating out cancer.