Cancer can't be beaten by positive thinking

Hi Everyone. Really interesting article in the Canberra Times today. Worth quoting "The popular belief that a postiive attitude can help fight cancer has been debunked by a group of Australian specialists who have proved a fighting spirit does not increase a patient’s survival chances. The Melbourne researchers say they realise their findings, presented at a cancer conference in Chicago, might not impress the majority of patients who believe their outlook can help their diagnosis, but they say it could be good news too.

“People often really beat themselves up and blame their attitude if their cancer relapses. We’ve shown absolutely that you’re not at fault. You cannot influence your cancer with positive or negative thinking, depression, a fighting spirit or any other factor”.

The study involved 708 women who had been newly diagnosed with localised breast cancer and tracked them over eight years to see whether their cancer relapsed. A quarter died over the period. Level of depression, anxiety and other factors like fatalist outlook, avoidance, anger and feelings of hopelessness were also assessed.

“Essentially, the bottom line is we didn’t find any correlation at all between these issues and whether their cancer came back. This goes against what the vast majority of patients believe”

and a qote from the chief of the Aust Cancer council “a positive attitude is great and it clearly helps quality of life when you’re going through treatment, but it makes an undetectable difference to disease”.

Sorry for such a long posting, but for all of you who are fed up with being told to be positive (or feel guilty if you don’t feel positive), this just confirms that it’s OK to get through the days however you can and however you want! Good luck everyone. Sarah xx

Hi Sarah
Thank you for your posting it confirms what I have worked through with myself, having been told to think positive so often. My thinking cannot change my cancer.
But are we just physical? Can soul and spirit help in the fight against this?


this is a welcome breath of fresh air to the debate. I’m pleased to see some research which is beginning to
de -bunk this myth which in turn may lessen the guilt trip placed on those of us who find ‘staying positive’ onerous and somewhat meaningless. Having a positive attitude may help cope with treatments and the psychological impact of being diagnosed with cancer but how attitude can affect or alter rapidly dividing cancer cells has never made sense to me. I’m also intrigued as to where the concept ‘positive thinking’ originated. It seems to me that it is more prevalent when discussing cancer and less so when discussing other life threatening diseases. You don’t hear about positive thinking having any influence on heart disease or motor neurone disease. Life style factors are highlighted as playing a more important role and I’m sure that when the powers to be find out more about cancer life style facors will be seen to play a more influential role.
just a thought from another early morning chemo messed up brain.


Glad to read the comments above. I have always said that whatever attitude you have if you have cancer it’s not going to halt it. How can it?

My niece said about her friend who had breast cancer that she has a positive attitude and she believes that will help against it coming back but I said it doesn’t matter how positive a person is if the cancer is growing an attitude won’t help. She looked at me in awe.

My attitude is to get on with life and have a good weep why you want which always helps.

Liz xx

I’m glad this research has stated what I’ve always believed…my friend was the most positive person I have ever known during her battle with BC…but still lost her life to it.
I personally find it very difficult to ‘‘be positiive’’…and always have since being dx in jan 04.

Trish…your post says exactly how I feel.

karen x

I am with Karen on this one. Some of the most positive women I have known are dead from breast cancer.

While I am positive most of the time, a good dose of misery is needed at times in order to keep going. I find a continual positive attitude to be a bad thing as I feel it amounts to denial and a refusal to face the facts. Surely a balance of emotion is required as in all other areas of life?


I’m related to an oncology professor and he told me all this when I was going through my treatment last year (he also just happened to be in charge of a clinic in Melbourne for years, funnily enough!). However, he did say that a positive attitude helps your well being when you are trying to get through the treatment as it helps you to manage your symptoms and side effects better.

Author removed from thread… this is the same thread and same arguments as other threads on postiive/negative choices.
I am not going to be part of this again.

Hi , I’m afraid this article has made me a bit depressed as I didnt even think about the subject , rather than the fact that a quarter were dead sfter 8 years. How can you remain positive when stats like that are printed…

Cally x

Hi, feel the same as you Cally,a quarter were dead after eight years the words keep appearing in my head, but then i thought well that means three quarters were still alive…All this positive stuff makes me feel uneasy and presured.Today I feel optomistic about the future but i could wake tomorrow and feel totaly different who knows.

love mel

This is already borne out by the comments in the article “The Honest Truth” in Sunday’s Scottish Post. The “expert” said he knows of those full of gloom and doom who are alive years later and those with a positive attitude who die in six months. A positive attitude cannot cure cancer. As my surgeon said it will do what it will do. But being positive will probably help with treatments. I will let you know after I have finished chemo. I havent started yet!

Hi , talk about up and down in a heartbeat .
I also feel under pressure to feel positive as maybe in some way feeling negative will have some physical impact on me . I hate reading stats about breast cancer as they never give you enough information and I’m almost too scared to read them. I also happened to read the thread on telling the children which really had me in tears … think I may need to go and play with my 2.5 year old and cheer myself up !

What concerns me is that the sample were all ladies with LOCALISED cancer, and that implies that it had not spread at the time the study started, but 25% of them had DIED within 8 years! Not even just a re-occurence, but had DIED.
Was that without treatment? Just with a positive outlook??


Lisa (Scared)

On the day I was DX I asked my BCN if I would have to be positive to beat it and she said no its complete tosh, you can be in a foul mood every day if you want and you’ll still beat it. I wasn’t in a foul mood every day but at least she took the pressure off.


Emily has said what I was going to add. By nature I am a positive person-even now when my outlook is pretty poor, with various mets 12 years after the original diagnosis.Being positive may not significantly affect the final outcome, but it does make life more bearable.

Despite my very poor prognosis, my life still has a great deal of pleasure and fun in it too. By thinking positively I feel that I’m doing my bit to help the drugs-if that’s nonsense, then so be it.

Hi to all
I by nature am a positive person always a glass half full. I have just had a very tough 4 months and will admit to thinking a couple of times 'this is it I dont think I will be here in the morning" Thank goodness I am still here still feeling positive and very grateful for every day. I think it would be more difficult for my family if I was negative. My hubby says I have less patience than I used to have so I think if I was a misery as well he would he might have strangled me!

Love Debsxxx

Having a positive attitude is what it is - a positive attitude. It’s a bit like being happy. Being happy is happy. Being sad is sad. Neither is going to make the cancer come or go. Otherwise all pessimists would have cancer and no optimists would. The difference between the positive people and the negative people is that positive people are positive and negative ones are negative. Too obvious? Clarity is needed: there is nothing negative about recognising difficult painful truths and nothing positive about denying them. It is negative to deny pleasant truths and positive to acknowledge them.

Important, in the end, to know what the truth is and decide to be happy whatever.

I think I’m going to carry on with the positive attitude approach to life… just because sometimes it feels like attitude is the only thing I do have the vaguest control over!!! and it has the knock on effect that it makes me easier to live with although my oh has mentioned reduced patience too so like Debs I think he’s lucky …ha

By this positive attitude I don’t mean I believe it will have any control over whats going on in my body,( ie as a treatment,) but it sure makes living easier and more fun… and it reduces the meaningful, grave face approach attitutude to me that drives me bonkers, I know it’s unreasonable but from strangers I’d often prefer indifference or rudeness…? {I also don’t mean that I’m pollyanna the glad girl… just I generally try and focus on the good bits…and I have 2 little ones so being miserable would only make it harder for them)

I think I’m going to approach the article with the attitude of ‘thank god I now really needn’t feel guilty for getting it, and a positve approach is just for fun not loaded in anyway’. I have a lovely surgeon who was reading round cancer and found the work of a guy who was suggesting that previous unhappy events or how you handle them could influence the development of cancer…my first thought was guilt …what did I do wrong…{which was NOT her intent] took a bit of rationalising to get that one out of my head and this article helps.

As for statistics I try and avoid them as they are only that… and not definate facts in relation to you personally… when looking at stats in my oncs office he gave me a little sheet with the statistics related to each part of the treatment he rec (to ensure I got the justification I think) I’d’ve been quite ready to take his word for it honest…
anyway he said he’d give me the 2% that drop off the planet for other reasons and add them onto my score… thank you fine by me…
best news on statistics was my OH who said they’ll all be out of date by now as things change so fast don’t get depressed.

Life is good and I am lucky even if bits of it are ****

don’t know if these ramblings make sense ?love and hugs to you all

Hey snowwhite beautifully put :0)

I find this research kinda reassuring. Thank goodness I don’t have to ‘stay positive’ (arghhh! How I hate that phrase) but can be happy or sad, depending on how I feel that day. Like many of you, I thank my lucky stars that I’m here and most of the time my glass is better than half full but I do need to mourn who I was and the body I had.

I find this subject really interesting.
While in my heart i believe cancer will grow and do what ever it wants regardless. BUT, how we think CAN have physical effects on our body.
If we get embarrased (they are just thoughts dont forget) it has a physical effect and we blush.
Just a thought. :slight_smile: