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Human Side of Cancer Offers Insights on Coping With the Disease

Human Side of Cancer Offers Insights on Coping With the Disease

NEW YORK—The current hype surrounding the mind-body connection has prompted people diagnosed with cancer to ask themselves if their personality, their emotions, or the stress in their lives somehow led to their cancer. This, in turn, has produced the negative phenomenon of blaming the victim.

In a new book, Jimmie C. Holland, MD, takes on what she calls “the tyranny of positive thinking” and shows why it can actually pose a threat to a cancer patient’s physical and emotional health.

Dr. Holland has been chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for more than 20 years and is also professor and vice-chairman of psychiatry at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York. She wrote The Human Side of Cancer: Coping With Uncertainty, Living With Hope (Harper-Collins Publishers) with Sheldon Lewis, a senior editor at Healthy Living magazine.

The book cuts through the confusion about the role that attitudes, emotions, stress, loss, and personality play in causing or curing cancer, presenting the true state of the science in this area. Dr. Holland explores what cancer does psychologically to people with cancer and their families, and offers sound advice on how each person must use his or her own coping style that has worked in the past.

The Human Side of Cancer draws on Dr. Holland’s extensive experience talking to cancer patients to address the broad range of issues that they and their families face during cancer diagnosis and treatment. Compelling case histories lend credibility and heart to the book’s text.

In addition to dispelling myths and beliefs about cancer, the book:

• Discusses how patients’ emotions influence their ability to seek appropriate care and tolerate treatment.

• Provides the most up-to-date information about mind/body remedies.

• Describes initial responses to the cancer diagnosis and the importance of getting competent, compassionate care, plus tips for forming a positive patient-doctor relationship.

• Gives guidelines on when to seek psychological help.

• Explains the most common types of cancer and the psychological issues related to each of them.

• Looks at the psychological effects of different treatments and how to deal with them.

• Details the range of psychological treatments, including individual and group counseling, cognitive-behavioral techniques, medications, relaxation, meditation, prayer, spiritual practices, and creative therapies such as art therapy.

• Reviews alternative and complementary therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, acupressure, therapeutic massage and ginger root tea, and offers “Do’s and Don’ts” for combining them with conventional cancer treatments.

• Addresses the psychological baggage attached to being a cancer survivor and how to deal with fears about recurrence.

• Lists guidelines for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and for proper screening to ensure early detection.

• Tells what the family of a patient with cancer must deal with, emotionally and physically.

Dr. Holland also tackles the issues patients and families face when the cancer cannot be cured: the devastating emotional response to news of recurrence or spread of cancer; how patients and families seek to make a tolerable meaning out of advancing illness; and how families find ways to keep coping with their grief and carry on without their loved one.

Rather than dictating a single one-size-fits-all prescription for coping, Dr. Holland breaks fresh ground as she points out the importance of respecting and validating each patient’s own personal ways of coping with illness.

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