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Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 10:57 GMT
Mind over matter cancer probe
Women thinking
Can positive thinking help cancer?
Cancer patients are to be studied to see if visualising their tumours being destroyed can make them feel better.

Around 200 bowel cancer patients will take part in a three-year study to see if "positive thinking" can improve quality of life and minimise treatment side effects.

Patients learn relaxation techniques, and are then asked to visualise their bodies fighting the cancer.

They might imagine their white blood cells, or the chemotherapy, fighting the cancer, or their body being healed.

'Psychological wellbeing'

A previous study of the "guided imagery" technique with breast cancer patients has already shown it is effective.

We want to compare the effects of relaxation and imagery, alone and in combination

Professor Leslie Walker, University of Hull
In patients who practiced positive thinking, and relaxation techniques, there were signs that the treatment helped the body's white blood cells fight the cancer cells.

They also reported a better quality of life and fewer side effects during their treatment than those who had not been taught these methods.

Professor Leslie Walker, director of the Oncology Health Centres at Hull University's Postgraduate Medical Institute, said: "We have good scientific evidence that this treatment can promote psychological wellbeing in women with breast cancer, and now we want to learn if men and women with bowel cancer will get similar benefits.

"We also want to compare the effects of relaxation and imagery, alone and in combination."

Stress

The study is being funded by a grant of 308,000 from Cancer Research UK and 95,000 from the NHS.

Sir Paul Nurse, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "There is much to be learned about the benefits of mind and body working together.

"This is very interesting research that may lead to improving the quality of life of many more cancer patients undergoing treatment."

But some experts have questioned the influence of attitude on cancer patients' prognosis.

Research published in the British Medical Journal last year found there was no evidence stress increased the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, or of the disease recurring.


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08 Nov 02 | Scotland
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