A little anxiety can be a good thing when it comes to cancer symptoms according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. They report that people with low overall anxiety levels were more apt to ignore symptoms of rectal cancer for long periods of time, thereby delaying treatment. In contrast, people with at least moderate levels of anxiety tended to quickly recognize symptoms such as rectal bleeding as a sign of serious illness.
"Almost everyone has heard about people who had cancer symptoms long before they sought help. I was curious about the psychology behind this," says Stephen Ristvedt, Ph.D., assistant professor of medical psychology in psychiatry and investigator at the Siteman Cancer Center. "Most people assume the explanation is fear or denial or a reluctance to hear the ’C-word’ from a doctor. So, I was surprised to find those who are generally optimistic and unconcerned had the longest delays."
The study will be reported in the May 2005 issue of Psycho-Oncology and is currently available online at the journal’s web site.
Gwen Ericson | EurekAlert!
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