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Dealing With Breast Cancer

Strong coping skills can aid women with breast cancer

TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- The stress of being diagnosed with breast cancer may make the disease worse, but women who have good coping styles may help their treatment and outcome.

That's the claim of a new report in the December issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

American researchers reviewing the mind-body connection in women with breast cancer found that stress, mental state and coping style all combine to affect biological factors such as immune function and hormone levels.

The study says that healthy coping has been shown to improve immune function and hormone balance while stress, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder lead to reduced immune function and altered hormone balance.

It's estimated that 30 percent to 40 percent of women with breast cancer have symptoms of anxiety and depression at the first diagnosis of the cancer. About 3 percent to 10 percent suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and virtually all women with breast cancer have some level of stress and distress.

The researchers found that previous studies show that people who adopt active coping strategies improve their immune system function and lower their cortisol levels, while the opposite is true for people who have passive coping strategies.

Active coping refers to taking a direct and rational approach to dealing with a problem. Passive coping involves avoidance, withdrawal and wishful thinking.

More information

The American Cancer Society has information about coping with breast cancer.

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, Dec. 1. 2002
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