One of the most well-known Buddhist teachings is this: Life is suffering. Birth, death, sorrow, pain, grief are all – according to Buddha – forms of great suffering, universal suffering. And how would our bodies interpret this so-called suffering? Well, they absorb it all as stress. Whether you agree with Buddha or not, there is no denying the fact that there is plenty of stress to go around in this modern age. Job stress, money stress, mortgage stress, and single-parent stress. Stress is bad for our health. It has been linked to many ailments including high blood pressure and heart disease. There is also evidence that stress can affect patients with prostate cancer.
The idea that stress and cancer are related can be traced back to 2005. Interviews conducted by the New York Times showed that several patients wholeheartedly believed that their cancers were caused by stress. The running theory was that stress wears on the immune system, breaking it down and allowing illnesses to take over; could it also cause the body to allow a tumor to grow? The patients who were interviewed by the Times said they got cancer during periods of great stress – going through a divorce or losing a job. But they also believed this factor, were it true, would take a greater toll on men, as they tend not to deal with stress very well at all. They often see it as a sign of weakness and suppress it, whereas women are generally more apt to share what is bothering them.
In fact, recent research has shown that patients with prostate cancer have higher levels of anxiety than patients with any other type of cancer. Furthermore, research performed by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, indicates that the anxiety is more than a side effect; it is also capable of reducing the effectiveness of drugs used to treat the disease and in some instances even accelerate its development. The study was also performed on mice and produced the same results.
This is a very recent breakthrough, however, and it will need time to be more heavily substantiated. But the fact is that no one likes stress. We don’t like it and our bodies don’t like it. And most things we stress about in life are things we cannot change. When you can, consciously let that stress dissolve through some means such as exercise, yoga, travel, or disowning the cause of your stress with a trusted friend. While life may be hard sometimes, it is also very, very good.