Women tend to take on more stress than they should, and that burden can fuel the growth of cancers like breast, ovarian and colorectal cancer.
The feeling of carrying stress around can overburden you and make you struggle to fulfill your everyday responsibilities. A little bit of stress here and there is manageable, and sometimes it can even be a motivator before you give a presentation at work or in similar situations. But chronic stress that has been there for a long time and is building up can have a number of negative effects on your body.
Being a mother, especially a working mother, can put all sorts of responsibilities on your plate where you are moving from one stressful situation to the other. “Caring for a sick loved one or dealing with a long stint of unemployment are common causes of chronic stress,” said Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor of General Oncology and Behavioral Science, and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson, according to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“Stress has a profound impact on how your body’s systems function,” said Cohen. Chronic stress that isn't dealt with in a healthy way can weaken your immune system over time. And this increases your chances of developing diseases like cancer. “Chronic stress also can help cancer grow and spread in a number of ways,” said Anil K. Sood, M.D., professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine at MD Anderson.
A recent study by researchers from the Dalian Medical University in China, in collaboration with researchers from around the world, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI) found that too much stress can play a role in the growth of cancer cells. Co-author of the study, Keith Kelley, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, also said, "This is one of the first studies to link chronic stress specifically with the growth of breast cancer stem cells," according to Medical News Today.
It is also believed that stress can speed up or fuel the spread of cancer in your body. This might also be observed in the case of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer, according to City of Hope. It was pointed out that stress in your body can lead to the release of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine. And this can activate or accelerate the growth of cancer cells. When they are getting this kind of stimulation, they are able to sort of adapt and adjust better to new environments in your body. Thus, it becomes easier for cancer cells to spread to different places.
Stress can also take a toll on your health by giving you headaches, digestive problems, increase your risk of asthma and arthritis flare-ups, cause skin problems, diabetes, blood pressure, heart problems and affect your weight, according to MentalHelp.net. It can affect your emotions by making you feel more angry, sad, depressed, anxious, and you feel like you don't have the energy to do anything.
The best thing to do is to find that source of your stress and find ways to eliminate it or handle it more effectively. It's best not to wait for a cancer diagnosis or any kind of diagnosis to pay attention to your stress levels. It was pointed out that women usually carry more burden of stress than they actually should. Find ways to relax and put your mind at ease regularly so that you can de-stress, like reading a book or sitting in your garden for a while. You can even start a new hobby and it could be the answer to your stress.
Even if you have a busy routine, taking some time out regularly for this can help. Most importantly, no matter how many family and work responsibilities you have, give yourself some time just for yourself. Don't feel guilty about taking a warm bubble bath or meeting your friends on a Saturday night. Make sure you are eating and sleeping well, and having healthy amounts of physical activity. While you may get busy and caught up with your own life, make time for your friends; give them a call and catch up every once in a while.
If you already have a cancer diagnosis, there are certain things you can do to improve the level of depression or anxiety that you are experiencing, according to the National Cancer Institute. You can sign up to learn and experience relaxation, and get some training in meditation and managing stress.
Feel free to talk to people about what you're going through; going for counseling or therapy can be absolutely helpful in finding better ways for you to deal with stress and get a more positive outlook. There are even sessions where you will be able to learn about the disease better and cope with it well. Certain exercises and physical activities can also help you deal with your stress levels. Don't underestimate the power of social support and relationships during this time.