Helplessness Feeds Cancer

Anticancer describes natural methods of health care that contribute to preventing the development of cancer or to bolstering treatment.

I recently read an exceptional book called AntiCancer: A New Way of Life by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber. The book begins with Dr. Servan-Schreiber  telling his fascinating story of how he discovered his own brain tumor after scanning his brain while working on his PhD in neuroscience. His cancer went into remission after conventional treatments of surgery and chemotherapy, but after a relapse, he had an awakening… and became a champion of  “alternative cancer treatments.”

Chapter 9, “The Anticancer Mind,” was one of the most intriguing parts of the book.  Dr. Servan-Schreiber describes an experiment which measured how feelings of helplessness feed cancer…   

“At the University of Pennsylvania…rats were grafted with the exact quantity of cancer cells known to induce a fatal tumor in 50 percent of them…the rats were divided into three groups…In the first group, the control group, the animals received the graft but were then left to live their lives as usual ….in the second group the rats were given small, random electric shocks which they had no control over. The animals in the third group were given the same random shocks but were provided with a lever that they quickly learned to press to avoid getting extra shocks.

“The results, published in Science, were very clear. One month after the graft, 54 percent of rats had successfully rejected their tumor. The rats subjected to shocks with no means of escape had become despondent. They would not fight against intrusions into their cage, and lost their appetite for food and sexual partners. Only 23 percent of these rats managed to overcome their cancer. The most interesting group was the third one. Though they were submitted to the intense stress of the same number of frequent electric shocks, having learned that they could avoid extra shocks by pressing a lever, these animals did not become despondent. They remained feisty when intruded upon, ate well, and copulated as frequently as rats do in a normal environment. And in that group, 63 percent successfully rejected the tumor, more than the rats left alone. It seems that the helplessness was capable of hastening the tumor’s spread, not the shocks themselves.” *

This was published in Science in 1982. Other studies demonstrating the relationship between the progress of cancer and unmanageable stress, leading to helplessness have since followed.

* excerpt taken from AntiCancer: A New Way of Life by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber

Dr. David Servan-Schreiber died in July 2011 — 20 years following his initial diagnosis.  For more information on Dr. David Servan-Schreiber’s remarkable story and groundbreaking work:

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center & Anticancer are currently seeking philanthropic funding to advance the goals of the Integrative Medicine Program, and to specifically support the development and testing of a novel, comprehensive integrative oncology intervention.:

About Donna Pinto

I am originally from New Jersey and moved to Los Angeles with my family at age 12. After graduating from San Diego State University with a BA in Journalism, I had a short-stint in magazine advertising sales before landing my "dream job" with Club Med. For two years I worked at resorts in Mexico, The Bahamas, The Dominican Republic and Colorado. My husband Glenn & I met in Ixtapa, Mexico and we embarked on a two year honeymoon around the world. This was also a research project for a book we wrote called "When The Travel Bug Bites: Creative Ways to Earn, Save and Stay Abroad." I am also the author of a quote book for new graduates -- "Cheatnotes on Life: Lessons From The Classroom of Life." In 1997, we settled in San Diego and I was blessed to work part-time from home for non-profit organizations while raising our two boys. In 2010, a DCIS diagnosis changed my life. DCIS 411 is the culmination of my on-going journey and discoveries.
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