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Let’s start with the good news: Cancer deaths are down, almost a third since 1991; According to the American Cancer Society. And now the worst: it’s not the fear of cancer. In fact, experts say cancer phobia seems to be stronger than ever, even as the death toll continues to decline. for what

Part of the reason, says Jesse Levine, MD, a psychologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, is that we are more open to talking about our illnesses these days, including cancer. More transparency means less stigma, which is good, but frequent stories about popular issues – among them King CharlesPrincess Catherine and actress Olivia Munn – It can increase the state of fear.

Regarding cancer, We have a lot of fearAbout treatment and side effects, pain and suffering, radiation and recurrence, impotence and infertility, and of course the biggest one, dying. Thanks to medical advances, some of these fears are now exaggerated or obsolete. Still, there’s a reason oncologist and author Siddhartha Mukherjee called cancer “the king of all diseases” and why it’s on the list of diseases we fear the most, even though it’s not the biggest killer (the “honor” goes to cardiovascular disease). It is widely regarded as a “fierce, unknowable and impregnable enemy”; This is based on a systematic evaluation of attitudes.

Cancer was considered a death sentence, which was not an unreasonable fear before the development of modern medical methods. For example, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1984 Five-year survival rate Compared to 95 percent in 1975 and 80 percent in 1975, National Cancer Institute (NCI) The five-year survival rate for breast cancer is now 91 percent, compared to 76 percent in 1975. NCI reports.

When it comes to all cancers, the five-year survival rate is now over 69 percent, up from about 50 percent in 1975. to NCI.

At the same time, some Immune therapies And other drugs almost never take up older treatments that have common side effects of nausea, vomiting and hair loss. That’s why both experts and cancer survivors have told me over and over again, “Get the facts about your type of cancer,” which can go a long way in overcoming fear.

David Ropek, retired journalist and author of the new bookTreating Cancerphobia: How Worry, Fear, and Worry Detain You,” removes other chronic anxieties. “Our fear of cancer has not caught up with the advances in medicine” in recent decades, he said. “About 2/3 out of 200 cancers can. 1720190982 They may be treated as chronic illnesses or completely cured, but we do not believe this.

As a result, there are too many of what Ropek calls “fear-ectomies” — medically unnecessary surgeries like prostatectomies and radiation for asymptomatic, slow-growing prostate cancers and full mastectomies for ductal cancer that has not spread and often does not spread. . In both cases, experts say active surveillance with periodic follow-ups is the best approach.

Ropeik says that our lack of control or power over this disease makes it worse. “If we can’t do anything, we’re more afraid,” he said. “We want to be able to say, ‘I can do this and get away with it,'” says psychologist Levine. Cancer is stuck in your mind as one of those ‘I can’t control’ things.

But Science in the last two decades It is understood that there is much more that individuals can do to reduce their risk of cancer, most notably:

Don’t smoke. Researchers have recently reported Those who quit had a 17 percent reduction in overall exposure Any Cancer than people who continue to smoke. In particular, they found 42 percent lower risk of exposure Lung cancer27 percent lower exposure Liver cancer14 percent lower exposure Stomach cancer and 20 percent lower risk of exposure Colorectal cancer.

Eat right. Studies have shown that eating a healthy diet (less meat and processed foods, more vegetables, whole grains and fish), getting regular exercise, sunscreen and preventive screenings are also hard for people, though not zero, Levine said. Cope.”

Cancer phobia leads to over-diagnosis, over-diagnosis and over-treatment by finding certain types of cancer that may not spread or cause symptoms. Overtreatment refers to the decision to choose more aggressive and risky treatments, such as prostatectomies and mastectomies, if medically necessary.

So what can be done to prevent cancer stress? In addition to doing research to understand your situation, here are a few strategies experts recommend:

Mind-body interventionsThese include Cognitive behavioral therapy, Mindfulness meditation, Methods of entertainment and using the creative arts (as a way to express oneself). A meta-analysis Published in Psycho-Oncology “These interventions produced significant small to moderate effects” in follow-up evaluations that were maintained for up to two years. Some studies have suggested that the psychotropic drug psilocybin may be beneficial, although more research has been done on this topic.

Continue to talk about what is causing you anxiety. The fears we know are less than the hidden fears. Levin adds that avoidance doesn’t reduce risk, but it can limit your options. Find a therapist who takes these issues into consideration. Many cancer hospitals can make referrals.

It’s okay to ask for help. In fact, saying “I can’t do this alone” is not just okay, it’s a sign of strength. Don’t be afraid to say I’m overwhelmed. Most people are; You don’t have to be the proverbial cancer fighter.

Help comes in many forms. Among them are psychologists, social workers and religious leaders, nutritionists, organized support groups and, friends and families. If you are worried about the treatment process, find people who have gone through it. Worried about finances? Find financial professionals who can evaluate your situation.

Beth Rosenberg, a retired cardiologist in North Carolina, perfectly summarizes how fear of cancer affects us, if not more, than a cancer diagnosis. “Unfortunately, I was caring for too many patients. [who feared] What can be found [and] “Waiting until the pain or bleeding becomes unbearable.”

She recalls a patient who delayed seeing a dermatologist for fear that a skin problem was cancer — and it turned out to be. Or the woman who ignores her breasts until they get too big. Both died in the year. “If they worked through their fear and went into it too soon, the scarring and pain would have been enormous,” Rosenberg said.