Unlocking the Code for Cancer Treatment: Exploring the 'Human' Aspect

Certain personality traits appear to be associated with cancer

Unlocking the Code for Cancer Treatment: Exploring the 'Human' Aspect
(Ground Picture/Shutterstock)
Dr. Kuo-Pin Wu

"Cancer" is a dreaded diagnosis and one of the most pervasive diseases of our day. However, there have been cases where cancer cells have mysteriously disappeared, even in patients deemed hopeless by medical professionals.

Mainstream medicine describes these cases as "spontaneous remission."

The prevailing medical mindset struggles to explain spontaneous remission and experts have various interpretations. For those who are open to it, this long-documented phenomenon opens up new and critical ways to understand cancer and how to treat it.

Medical scientists and doctors have long known that the mind is a critical factor in the progression of disease, but current conventional medicine has largely ignored this aspect. In some cases, modern medicine even ignores the patient, focusing almost exclusively on the disease.

Dr. Bernard Lown, a pioneering cardiologist and humanitarian who founded the Lown Institute, wrote about this in his book “The Lost Art of Healing: Practicing Compassion in Medicine.”

“Patients will not acquiesce to the ultimate alienation of being reduced to standardized objects. No one will accept for long being merely identified by their illness, as nothing but an assemblage of broken-down biologic parts. Patients crave a partnership with their physicians who are as sensitive to their aching souls as to their malfunctioning anatomy. They yearn not for a tautly drafted business contract but for a covenant of trust between equals earned by the doctor exercising the art of caring,” he wrote.

Lown's statement highlights the shortcomings and challenges faced by modern medicine. To transcend these shortcomings, medicine must account for the whole person—the sum total of their being, including their thoughts, feelings, and character.

Modern Medical Predicament: Neglecting the 'Whole Person' Care

Parasitic diseases, infectious diseases, and nutritional deficiencies were once the primary threats to human health. However, diseases related to psychology and social factors have emerged as significant health issues in modern society. Traditional biomedical approaches to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention fall short in treating such diseases.

Modern medicine focuses on studying biological changes—delving into anatomy, physiology, pathology, biochemistry, and other aspects to investigate the causes and treatments of diseases.

Due to the emphasis on biomedical aspects, modern medicine only sees the "disease," relying on drugs and surgeries to eliminate disease in clinical practice. If that illness is depression, treatment protocols often reduce the ailment to a biochemical imbalance best addressed with drugs that have cascading influences of uncertain consequences.

But besides the physical body, humans possess intangible elements such as the mind and consciousness. In the causes and progression of diseases, the mental and conscious aspects often play a dominant role. This crucial reality is finally gaining recognition in the medical community, though hasn't quite penetrated clinical practice. That said, the World Health Organization does now define health as "a complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

The "biomedical model" separates the person from the disease and looks at the patients' excreta (waste matter) and pathological tissues in isolation from the rest of the patient, solely seeking the causes of diseases, while neglecting the influence of social, psychological, and behavioral factors, thus wholly erasing the human image.

But if medicine's subject is the human being, treating any significant disease, especially cancer, requires mind-body integration.

Personality Traits Associated With Cancer

Regarding cancer research in modern medicine, the focus often concerns tangible and measurable carcinogens and genetic factors. Lifestyle factors are starting to also gain attention and some experts even explore the causes of cancer from different perspectives.
According to Andrew Goliszek, a professor at North Carolina A&T State University, there's a correlation between emotions and our susceptibility to illness and disease. Goliszek cites research that links negative emotions such as depression, anger, and hostility to a greater risk of cancer, while positive attitudes such as hope, optimism, and happiness are linked to a lower risk. These character traits can calm the sympathetic nervous system and strengthen immune function, thereby protecting us from disease.

There are biochemical factors involved in this, such as stress hormones, and these often get the most attention. But here again, we run the risk of reducing the patient to their physiology.

Goliszek discusses certain "cancer-prone personalities" that research links to a greater risk of cancer. These characteristics include:
  • Repressing both positive and negative emotions
  • Displaying anger, resentment, or hostility toward others
  • Taking on extra duties and responsibilities, even when they cause stress
  • Reacting adversely to and struggling to cope with life changes
  • Having a pessimistic outlook
  • Easily experiencing depression or feelings of hopelessness
  • Worrying frequently and excessively about others
  • Feeling the need for approval and constantly seeking to please others
Lawrence LeShan, a psychotherapist in New York, observed similar patterns in clinical cancer treatment. Individuals often exhibit deep sadness, discouragement, and loss in response to unfavorable life events while suppressing their inner emotions. This negative attitude can significantly weaken the immune system, which creates opportunities for cancer cell proliferation.
In his years of interaction with cancer patients, LeShan found that some cancer patients made significant physiological, psychological, and spiritual improvements when faced with cancer. This seemed to affect the course of their disease.

In recent years, more people have begun recognizing the importance of positive thinking and emotional detoxification for physical health.

Louise L. Hay, a renowned American healing practitioner known for her work on the mind–body connection, provides an apt example of spontaneous cancer remission. After being diagnosed with cervical cancer at 52, she released accumulated anger and resentment from childhood abuse. Six months later, the cancer cells in her body disappeared.
There is also a growing trend of patients turning to complementary and alternative medicine approaches such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture, meditation, mindfulness, and qigong when facing a cancer diagnosis.

Caring for Patients' Well-Being Is Crucial to Mitigating Cancer's Internal Turmoil

To address the limitations of the biomedical model in modern medicine, people have started to reflect on and revise the biomedical approach.

The book "Healing Cancer from Within: The Key Report on Cancer Psychology" highlights that cancer is a comprehensive and systemic disease caused by "internal disorders" resulting from disruptions in multiple aspects of the body. Comprehensive adjustments to these disorders are equally necessary, even crucial, for preventing metastasis and recurrence.

Cancer isn't a malfunction of only basic cellular reproduction, but also internal immune functions that should recognize and clear out problematic cells. Researchers have now verified, through several mechanisms, that the state of a person's mind has immediate and significant effects on their physiology. Ongoing stress is also known to contribute to chronic disease states. Even loneliness has been linked to significant increases in disease risk.

George L. Engel, a psychologist, proposed in an article published in the journal Science that the "biopsychosocial model" overcomes the limitations of the biomedical model by emphasizing the comprehensive and systematic integration of biological, psychological, and social perspectives in understanding human health and disease. It recognizes the importance of addressing individuals' psychological needs and social factors.
Another emerging model, the "ecological model," encompasses a broader scope. The National Cancer Institute describes this model as “the interaction between, and interdependence of, factors within and across all levels of a health problem. It highlights people’s interactions with their physical and sociocultural environments.”

It studies the relationship between health status and the internal and external environment of the human body through the concept of an ecosystem.

In the initial stages, this model focused on the external environment, including the effects of the natural and social environment on the human body. In later stages, it recognized the role of the human body's internal environment, emphasizing the maintenance of inner microbial balance. In summary, it underscores the need for internal and external environments to be unified, achieving harmony and coordination for long-term health and well-being.

The ecological medical model emphasizes the harmony between humans and nature and the internal coordination of the human body, which aligns with TCM principles. From a macro perspective, TCM focuses on the whole and utilizes comprehensive analysis methods to study the internal connections within the human body and its relationship with the internal and external environment. In essence, the ecological and traditional Chinese medical models are compatible.

The Western medical approach, which often focuses on localized treatment, and the holistic and macro-regulation approach of TCM, can join hands and organically integrate to contribute to the fight against cancer and promote overall human health. This is a promising development.

Dr. Kuo-pin Wu is the superintendent of Taiwan Xinyitang Heart Clinic. In 2008, he started to study traditional Chinese medicine and obtained a bachelor’s degree from China Medical University in Taiwan.
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