More than 90% of the physicians [oncologists treating patients with various cancers] said they attached the highest value to the attitudes of hope and optimism.
Norman Cousins in Head First: The Biology of Hope describing a national survey of oncologists assessing the impact of various psychological factors in fighting cancer

Developing and Healing Cancer —

The Power of Thought to Make Ill and to Heal (part 2)

ctd. from previous page and excerpted from "The Power of Thought to Heal: An Ontology of Personal Faith", Ph.D. dissertation © by Arthur Preston Smith, Claremont Graduate University: 1998

The Role of the Mental in Curing Cancer

Having seen how thinking patterns can exacerbate or lead to cancer, we can now turn to the various forms of mental therapy that seem to work. Without advocating specific techniques, Siegel cites five characteristics, outlined by Dr. Kenneth Pelletier, that are typical of cancer patients who survive against the odds;

”1. Profound intrapsychic change through meditation, prayer, or other spiritual practice.

2. Profound interpersonal changes, as a result: Their relations with other people had been placed on a more solid footing.

3. Alterations in diet: These people no longer took their food for granted. They chose their food carefully for optimum nutrition.

4. A deep sense of the spiritual as well as material aspects of life.

5. A feeling that their recovery was not a gift nor spontaneous remission, but rather a long, hard struggle that they had won for themselves.”

Then, Siegel adds: ”In 1977 a research group led by Dr. Edward Gilbert of Denver's Presbyterian Medical Center completed one of the first controlled tests of psychological treatment of cancer patients. Gilbert and his co-workers asked independent physicians to examine a group of forty-eight patients and predict how long they could expect to live using standard medical treatments.

The patients entered an eight-week program of individual and group therapy, biofeedback, and training in meditation and visualization. Then the patients were tested by independent psychiatrists to see which ones had made the most positive changes in their lives. Five patients were graded as having changed most significantly and four of these far exceeded medical expectations. Of the other twenty-five then remaining in the group, only one outlived the initial prognosis by a similar margin.”(97)

Siegel cites the techniques of "individual and group therapy, biofeedback, and training in meditation and visualization," but he also notes that these methods are most effective when, coupled with the experience of the disease itself, they result in profound transformation in the afflicted individual's character.

For me, the diagnosis of cancer was a terrifying experience — and mine was one of the more readily "curable" varieties. Moreover, the primary weapons modern medicine uses to fight cancer, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy (or as some have put it, "slash, burn, and poison") often cause more discomfort than the actual disease itself.

It is, therefore, understandable, why a protracted battle with cancer can in itself bring about depression, the very mental condition that tends to bring on cancer or make it worse.

Recognizing this, Cousins decided to look for ways to combat the depression, with the aim of improving the physical condition as a result. He organized and led a group of cancer patients called the "Society of Challengers," who met weekly for a six-week period.

During that time they received "education information about their cancer and about nutrition" and were "taught various relaxation techniques as well as positive coping strategies and problem-solving techniques."(98) As one might expect from Cousins, the therapy also included healthy doses of humor.(99)

There was, of course, a control group that received nothing but standard medical therapy.

To measure the potential effectiveness of his techniques, Cousins used two standard psychological tests to measure levels of depression: the Profile of Mood States (POMS) and the psychosocial adjustment to illness (PAIS) test. Standard medical tests (LEU 7 and LEU II) were used to measure the immune system.

When comparing the scores of both kinds of tests, in both the Challengers and control groups, Cousins found that not only did the Challengers group fare better than the control, but also that the measures of mental well-being correlated positively with the levels of immune system activity.

After six weeks, Cousins found that the experimental group showed a significant decrease in depression (as measured by the POMS), while the control group showed only a slight decline. The trend continued.

After six months, the decline in depression accelerated for the Challengers group and actually increased for the control. Moreover, a dramatic difference in PAIS scores between the two groups had appeared, with the control group showing a slight decrease in distress and the experimental group showing a more marked decrease.

Says Cousins: ”The reeducation of the patients, apparently, was having its effects. The growth in confidence; the increasing knowledge by patients about the nature of their own resources; the enhancement of life-style; the decline in feelings of helplessness — all these were reflected in the POMS and PAIS measurements of the research group.

Most exciting of all, however, was that the decline in depression was accompanied by an increase in certain immune cells, or activating forces, within the immune system. The conclusion was inescapable:

If you can reduce the depression that almost invariably affects cancer patients, you can increase the body's own capacity for combating malignancies. This becomes especially important in view of the fact that chemotherapy, which is often used in the treatment of cancer, can have deleterious effects on the immune system.

The data on which his conclusions are based appear [in the following]:

How Depression and Quality of Life Affect the Immune System

(Note: The table appeared similarly scrambled at the site of original publication.)

Mean Change Scores

Control 0.1 5 0.04
P<.012* P<.007*
Experimental - 4.06 - 4.34
Control -0. 58 0.04
P<.049* P<.003*
Experimental -3.89 - 4.71
Mean Change Scores
Control (PAIS test not -1. 46
administered P<.043*
Experimental at this point) - 5.77
Control -1.35
Experimental -6.91
Mean Change Scores
Control -1.6 5 -0.23
P<.02 4* P<.035*
Experimental 7.60 8.34
IMMUNE CELLS (in the NK cell family)
Mean Change Scores
Control -0.8 5 0.04
P<.032* P<.04 4*
Experimental 1.06 2.09
Control 0. 50 0.12
P<.7 40 P<.014*
Experimental 0.80 2.89

* P is the level of statistical significance between the experimental and control groups. P<0.0 5 is considered to be statistically significant. All statistically significant figures have been asterisked.”(100)

The results of Cousins's own study would seem to indicate that the psychotherapeutic techniques used produced statistically significant differences in both the patients' emotional sense of well-being and their immune system responses.

Cousins cites another study, conducted by Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School, whose work was also previously cited by Dossey, in which "relaxation response" training had a positive effect on cancer patients.

Benson found that patients undergoing meditation, relaxation, and guided imagery therapy ”reported significant improvements in quality of life, including increased vigor and fighting spirit, along with a decrease in hopelessness, tension, depression, anxiety, and somatization.

Dr. Benson also found relaxation response training effective in moderating the adverse physical effects of chemotherapy.

Preliminary results have shown that the gains made as a result of participation in the relaxation response group endure over time and that patients with more advanced cancer who rated highly on "fighting spirit" survived significantly longer.

Cousins's concludes that intelligence and free will can both combat existing diseases and help prevent future ones.”(101)

Other studies support his view. Two of the early pioneers among mainstream physicians in applying mental healing techniques with cancer patients were physician O. Carl Simonton and psychologist Stephanie Matthews (Simonton's wife at the time). Siegel describes their initial studies on the effectiveness of imaging techniques on "terminal" cancer patients as follows:

”Of their first 159 patients, none of whom was expected to live more than a year, 19 percent had gotten rid of their cancer completely, and the disease was regressing in another 22 percent. Those who eventually did succumb had, on the average, doubled their predicted survival time.(102)

Dossey makes a similar point in citing two other studies, including the Achterberg and Lawlis studies cited earlier.

”[T]here is ample solid scientific evidence that directed, highly specific imagery can bring about changes in the body. For instance, Dr. Howard Hall of Pennsylvania State University has shown that subjects, using hypnosis, can generate a more active immune response when they imagine their white blood cells as ‘strong and powerful sharks.’

Working with 126 cancer patients, psychophysiologist Jeanne Achterberg and psychologist G. Frank Lawlis demonstrated that the patients' clinical response — future tumor growth or remission — was directly related to the specificity, vividness, strength, and clarity of their mental imagery.

The work of Achterberg and Lawlis, pioneers in the clinical use of imagery, thus offers another side to the debate over whether directed or nondirected imagery and prayer strategies work best.”(103)

Hypnosis too has been beneficial in treating cancer patients, especially in the area of relieving pain. Murphy cites two studies:

”In a series of articles published during the 1950s, physician Byron Butler reported the successful reduction of pain in cancer patients and gave a history of cancer treatment by hypnosis going back to 1980.

More recently, V. W. Cangello gave posthypnotic suggestions for pain reduction to 73 cancer patients and found that 30 of them reported excellent to good results. His deeply hypnotizable patients generally experienced more relief than the others, though about half of his less susceptible subjects were also helped.

The results of these studies, wrote Ernest and Josephine Hilgard, "show a relationship between hypnotic responsiveness and success in pain reduction. The figure that commonly emerges — about 50 percent of the cases showing substantial improvement — is close to that reported by other clinicians.”(104)

Though Murphy cites no similar studies with respect to hypnosis curing cancer, Siegel makes a qualified argument that cancer can be cured by mental activities. Apparently the tabloid The Midnight Globe ran a headline quoting him as saying the mind can cure cancer. Siegel describes his reaction as follows:

”I thought it [the headline] was simplistic and misleading. The more I worked with patients, however, the more I came to see that the statement was correct. Now I consider those omnipresent supermarket newspapers to be important medical journals. (I say this tongue mostly in cheek.) The mind can cure cancer, but that doesn't mean it's easy.”(105)

Later, he describes some of the hurdles involved: ”I have collected 57 extremely well documented so-called cancer miracles. A cancer miracle is when a person didn't die when they absolutely, positively were supposed to.

At a certain particular moment in time they decided that the anger and the depression were probably not the best way to go, since they had such a little bit of time left, and so they went from that to being loving, caring, no longer angry, no longer depressed, and able to talk to the people they loved.

These 57 people had the same pattern. They gave up, totally, their anger, and they gave up, totally, their depression, by specifically a decision to do so. And at that point the tumors started to shrink.”(106)

The "cancer miracles" mentioned by Siegel here are called "spontaneous regression of cancer" or SRC in medical jargon. SRC does occur, but according to Dossey it is "uncommon, to say the least." Opinions as to how rare vary, but he cites one study in which the researchers simply concluded that when it did occur, it was a fluke:

”Researchers T. C. Everson and W. H. Cole collected 176 case reports from various countries around the world on spontaneous regression of cancer (SRC), and concluded that SRC occurs in one out of 100,000 cases of cancer. Other authorities believe the incidence may be higher, perhaps one in 80,000 cases.

These researchers concluded that, since almost any treatment seemed to work occasionally but not consistently, all these measures were equally worthless and that SRC is purely a random event entirely beyond the control of an individual patient.

According to this point of view, the disappearance of St. Peregrine's cancer had nothing to do with prayer; it would have happened anyway for reasons that are essentially obscure and unpredictable. The saint was simply one of the lucky ones. And in any case, these events are too rare to hold out as hope to people suffering from cancer, especially since they cannot control them.”(107)

Dossey, however, does not concur with this conclusion. Citing five carefully controlled case studies conducted in 1975 by physician Yujiro Ikemi at Kyushu University's medical school in Fukuoka, Japan, Dossey maintains that attitudes such as "prayerfulness" can make a significant difference:

”Ikemi and his co-workers did not ‘skim off the top,’ picking only cases that conformed to their expectations and preconceived ideas. The reports are scientifically precise and include biopsy confirmation of all the cancers in question.

On balance these remarkable cases seem to contradict the idea that SRC is accidental, random, and beyond the effects of a patient's thoughts, attitudes, and feelings. They strongly suggest that there is a profound effect of prayerfulness and an indwelling spiritual sense on the cancer process.”(108)

Dossey believes, evidently, that "spontaneous" regression of cancer, although rare and apparently random, may be less "spontaneous" than it might seem. However, he is somewhat more cautious than Siegel in his position on whether we can call prayer an outright "cure" for cancer. Citing a study by Michael Lerner, special consultant to the U. S. Office of Technology Assessment, in preparing a report on unconventional cancer treatments, Dossey expresses the following reservation:

”So far no one has been able to demonstrate that cancer or any other disease will predictably disappear by using prayer, meditation, or any psychological or spiritual method whatever.

Lerner has concluded that although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that many such therapies improve the quality of life, he has not found any cure for cancer among the many unconventional methods he examined, and little scientific evidence that such methods extend life beyond what could be achieved with conventional treatments.”(109)

The exact extent to which prayer or mental therapy can work with cancer is not yet known. Cousins unexpectedly found himself under attack by people in the news media, when physician Barrie Cassileth published a paper, "Psychosocial Correlates of Survival in Advanced Malignant Disease," in the New England Journal of Medicine, in June 1985.(110)

In spite of the controversy in the news media that ensued, Cassileth had no intention of discrediting Cousins's work. Her intent was to prevent people from misinterpreting it to mean that anybody could simply laugh their cancer away. Cousins's and Cassileth's subsequent discussion of the matter resulted in the following joint statement:

”Some of the reports and comments incorrectly interpreted the [Cassileth] study's results to mean that positive attitudes have no value in a strategy for effective treatment of illness.

Cassileth's study, however, was not concerned with disease in general but with advanced cancer in particular. Cassileth wrote: ‘Our study of patients with advanced, high-risk malignant diseases suggests that the inherent biology of the disease alone determines the prognosis, overriding the potentially mitigating influence of psychosocial factors.’

This means that in advanced cancer, biology overwhelms psychology. [But compare for instance Lourdes faith healing {miraculous cure and complete regeneration of a hip bone formerly disintegrated due to malignant sarcoma}.] It does not mean that emotions and health are unrelated. It does not mean that emotions and attitudes play no role in the treatment or well-being of ill people.’

The reciprocal mind/body relationship is complex. We must be aware equally of both the potential power and the limitations of attitudes in their effects on health and disease.”(111)

This statement probably best sums up the clinical aspects of applying mental therapy to the disease called cancer.


38 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 167.
39 R. Nachman of Breslov, Likutey Moharan II, 2 4, in Avraham Greenbaum, The Wings of the Sun: Traditional Jewish Healing in Theory and Practice (Jerusalem, Israel and Monsey, N.Y.: Breslov Research Institute, 1995), 5.
40 Siegel, 76.
41 Cousins, Head First, 76-7.
42 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 84.
43 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 94.
44 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 70.
45 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 94.
46 Cousins, Head First, 200.
47 Cousins, Head First, 234-5.
48 Siegel, 153-4.
49 Dossey, Healing Words, 106.
50 Dossey, Healing Words, 105-6.
51 Siegel, Love, Medicine and Miracles, 150-1.
52 Siegel, 150-1.
53 Cousins, The Healing Heart, 52-4.
54 Moyers, 191, quoted from Candace Pert.
55 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 63-4.
56 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 14.
57 Moyers, 206, quoted from Margaret Kemeny.
58 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 65-6.
59 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 67.
60 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 63.
61 Siegel, 183.
62 Siegel, 74.
63 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 168.
64 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 168-9.
65 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 167-9.
66 Dossey, Healing Words, 109.
67 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 72.
68 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 72.
69 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 70-1.
70 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 220-1.
71 Siegel, 68
72 It also suggests that studies testing various substances for carcinogenic effects, specifically those that involve the injection, ingestion, or other form of exposure to massive quantities of the substance, might not be reliable with respect to more moderate amounts. Moderate exposure may well not adversely affect the immune system, while exposure to the massive quantities used in the tests does. Claims concerning the carcinogenic effect of "second hand smoke" have come under attack for precisely this reason.
73 Siegel, 75.
74 Siegel, 72-3.
75 Siegel, 72.
76 Cousins, Head First, 291.
77 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 131-2.
78 Siegel, 116-7.79.
79 Cousins, Head First, 291.
80 Siegel, 167
81 Siegel, 94-5.
82 Cousins, Head First, 264-5.
83 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 93.
84 Siegel, 74-5.
85 Cousins, Head First, 85-7.
86 Siegel, 152.
87 Cousins, Head First, 216.
88 Siegel, 80.
89 Siegel, 80.
90 Moyers, 332.
91 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 221-4.
92 Siegel, 25.
93 Siegel, 104-5.
94 Cousins, Head First, 217.
95 Cousins, Head First, 216. The spelling of the researcher's last name is different here (Temoshok) from that in Moyers (Temoshek) cited earlier. I am not sure which spelling is correct, but the two citations appear to refer to the same work.
96 Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 30.
97 Siegel, 184-6.
98 Cousins, Head First, 254.
99 Cousins, Head First, 258.
100 Cousins, Head First, 259-261.
101 Cousins, Head First, 235-6.
102 Siegel, 18
103 Dossey, Healing Words, 105.
104 Murphy, 325.
105 Siegel
106 Siegel, 202
107 Dossey, Healing Words, 29.
108 Dossey, Healing Words, 30.
109 Dossey, Healing Words, 35.
110 Cousins, Head First, 210 - 213.
111 Cousins, Head First, 213 - 215.

Note by Healing Cancer Naturally

The above dissertation repeatedly refers to "patients with a fighting spirit presenting a longer survival term", which could be read to mean that they live only a few years longer while still implying that as cancer patients they are “doomed”, with the sword of Damocles dangling over them just taking more or less longer to fall.

When reading such statements please remember that in all likelihood, these observations are based on people following conventional cut burn poison treatment modalities AND represent an average of all these people observed....

By contrast, this website naturally encourages everyone to go for full recovery and health FOREVER via optimum holistic health care without poisons, trusting and supporting the body’s innate drive to health!

This state of health is absolutely achievable in my view, or in the words of Dr. Martin Brofman who healed himself of “terminal” cancer through a consciousness shift, “Anything can be healed”.

Much more on the mind body connection in cancer development and healing in Emotions and Dr. Hamer’s German New Medicine.

Also compare eminent cancer researcher Lothar Hirneise’s summary Who survives cancer? and Resistance: Why cancer patients may ignore, ridicule, reject, & attack alternative cancer treatments.


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