The theory will be tested on 180 bowel cancer sufferers. ‘This is a very exciting and innovative piece of research,’ said Professor Leslie Walker, who is running the University of Hull project. To read the full article go to Daily Mail online
‘In three years’ time it will yield very important information about the relationship between the mind and the body.’ In the trial, chemotherapy patients at two hospitals in Humberside will be offered the chance to learn ‘relaxation’ and ‘guided imagery’ techniques. As well as relaxing their muscles, they will be asked to visualise their white blood cells tackling the cancer.
Professor Walker said:
‘Some like to use the fighting metaphor. The white blood cells are like soldiers with bayonets attacking the cancerous cells.
‘Others prefer the healing metaphor. They visualise a white light which is penetrating the cancer and therefore promoting health.’
Researchers will look for changes in the white blood cell count as well as in quality of life, coping, mood and stress. They have been given a £ 308,000 grant by Cancer Research UK and £95,000 by the NHS. Research published last November, however, showed little-evidence of mind overcoming matter in cancer patients. Doctors reviewed 26 cases which investigated a possible link between cancer survival and different psychological coping styles. These included fighting spirit, hopelessness, denial and avoidance.
Dr Jill Graham, of the Cancer Research UK unit at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, said:
‘This research says if you’re feeling down and depressed you shouldn’t panic. It won’t affect your recovery or cause a relapse.’ Professor Walker, however, believes, thinking in a particular way may influence the body’s disease-fighting systems. ‘The brain can release a number of hormones and other substances, which in turn affect how white blood cells work,’
A study on breast cancer patients three years ago showed that patients who used their imagination in this way produced ‘significant differences’ in their white blood cells, although it is not known to what extent this affected the disease.
Terry Thornley, 62, has been using guided imagery to help fight bowel cancer for 15 months. He has undergone chemotherapy, radiotherapy, three operations and is now recovering. Recent tests showed no cancerous cells or tumours in his body.
The retired lecturer, from Leconfield near Hull, is convinced imagery has helped him tackle the disease.
‘It reduces your anxiety, your sense of helplessness and you regain control of events,’ he said. ‘It also helps to improve your quality of life.