Living with breast cancer: The psychological benefits of practicing health -promoting behaviors
Breast cancer remains a highly and extremely stressful experience for hundreds of thousands of women each year in the United States and around the world. As treatment improves and mortality rates decline, more and more women are living with breast cancer and the threat of recurrence. One of the major problems generated by cancer survival is the duration of uncertainty; it is usually many years before the patient can feel safe from the cancer returning. For many breast cancer survivors, the need for control over their health and course of disease has inspired them to practice a healthier lifestyle. Cancer research is rich with studies that have provided a picture of the emotional and social impact of breast cancer and the psychosocial interventions that decreases the patients' distress and enhances their quality of life. However, very few studies have examined the psychological benefit to practicing health-enhancing behaviors for long-term breast cancer survivors.
The current archival study examined whether practicing health-enhancing behaviors was related to positive psychological functioning, including less fear of recurrence for long-term breast cancer survivors. For the purpose of this study, health behaviors, also referred to as complementary or alternative medicine, were defined as healthful diet practices including vitamin use, herbal remedies, traditional folk remedies and potentially stress-reducing activities, such meditation, yoga, massage therapy, and visualization, among others. Results indicated breast cancer survivors who engaged in traditional folk remedies and/or current activities/groups with potential to reduce stress had higher psychological functioning than those who did not. In addition, use of traditional folk remedies and participation in activities/groups were associated with perceived feelings of control with use of traditional folk remedies having slightly more impact than engagement in activities or groups. Although marginally significant, participation in activities or groups was shown to have some impact on fear of recurrence. Findings of the study provided initial evidence that breast cancer survivors who engaged in traditional folk remedies and/or current activities/groups had higher psychological functioning than those who did not.