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Lynne Eldridge MD

Attitude Influences Lung Cancer Survival

By March 5, 2010

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I"ve had a rumbling feeling in my gut over the years -- that attitude may play a role in lung cancer survival. And I'm not alone. Just take a day of listening to comments. "We have to keep Aunt Kathy's spirits up so she can beat this cancer." According to a new study, there is some validity to those intuitive thoughts.


Researchers looked at over 500 people living with lung cancer, and ranked them on a scale of optimism vs pessimism. An optimistic attitude appeared to influence survival. Optimists lived on the average 6 months longer than pessimists, and their 5-year survival rate was 10% higher.

The reasons?

We don't know. The researchers took into account lifestyle factors, and the survival benefit appeared to be related to attitude alone. They believe it may be related to lung cancer treatment decisions, but say we need to look further.

There are still some unanswered questions - like - does working on your attitude after a diagnosis of lung cancer make a difference? The attitudes the researchers looked at were from cancer patients 18 years before they were diagnosed. Still - my gut says it can't hurt.

What does this mean for those of you who are living with lung cancer? Where do we start? Our About.com Guide to Stress Management, Elizabeth Scott, has some great ideas:

First, are you an optimist? Try her quiz:

Then - no matter what the results - check out her tips for becoming more of an optimist:

And, if you find the stigma of lung cancer dragging you down, that attitude that somehow people with lung cancer caused their disease, check out:

I would love to hear from lung cancer survivors. What has helped you remain optimistic, or put on a smile on your face in the midst of treatment? What has helped you find the glass half-full instead of half-empty?

Photo: Courtesy of the National Cancer Institute, Rhoda Baer photographer


Novotny, P. et al. A Pessimistic Explanatory Style is Prognostic for Poor Lung Cancer Survival. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. 2010. 5(3):326-332.

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