It is easy to say “stay positive” in the wake of hormonal cancer treatment, but depending upon which of the seven main drugs is used in that treatment, the list of side effects is long — from vomiting to bone thinning to depression.
A new study suggests thinking bad thoughts can bring about a bad outcome when it comes to breast cancer treatment. In particular, hormonal breast cancer treatment. Women who were undergoing hormonal therapy regimens to combat breast cancer who believed the side effects would be bad had double the amount of side effects compared to women who were able to remain positive about the degree of side effects.
Certainly, side effects can influence how closely a patient sticks to their treatment regimen, and the researchers who conducted the study believe that if we can understand the role expectations play in shaping the outcome of a treatment regimen that the overall treatment could be improved and made more positive.
The study encompassed 111 subjects — all women who had breast cancer and were undergoing a hormonal therapy regimen, continuing on that regimen from the beginning of their treatment and extending over a 2-year period. During the study, these women were questioned as to what their level of expectation was regarding side effects. When the study concluded, the data showed that patients having a very poor negative view of the side effects they would be subjected to as a result of the hormonal treatment actually reported twice the side effects as other patients with a more positive outlook.
The variety of side effects ran the gambit from gaining weight, joint pain, hot flashes, and other side effects typical of drugs such as Tamoxifen or Arimidex. But subjects also reported a variety of side effects such as lumbar pain and difficulty with respiration, which are not indicative of hormonal breast cancer treatment side effects. Scientists propose that these symptoms could be based on negativity associated with the treatment and side effects.
In retrospect, the study group was relatively small – just over 100 participants and more research are needed to determine the role of expectation in treatment. Yet the research could be the beginning of looking at expectation management as a treatment issue and helping patients manage their personal issues associated with their treatment.