Although research on the relationship between psychosocial factors and immune mechanisms in cancer regulation is yet to offer conclusive outcomes, academics and medical practitioners are in agreement that psychosocial factors affects the body’s immune system in numerous ways. Indeed, some researchers have hinted that the role of psychosocial factors in cancer progression among populations who already have the disease cannot be wished away (Naaman et al., 2009). These researchers argue that psychosocial factors negatively affects the immune system’s capacity to defend people against common and complex diseases and, as such, the factors directly or indirectly contributes to the spread of cancer in the body as a direct consequence of the inhibited immune system (Gorin, 2010).
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According to Naaman et al (2009), increased survivorship among patients suffering from cancer has fundamentally transformed the ailment from what was previously acknowledged as a terminal condition to one of chronic magnitude. Since patients of cancer are now living longer, they experience a multiplicity of psychosocial challenges that are inherently beyond the point of medical treatment. Patients, for instance, have to deal with the realities of having being diagnosed with cancer, long-term consequences of toxic treatment procedures, the perceived or real possibility of recurrence even after a sustained period of apparently successful treatment, professional and career interruptions, and financial distress.
Many cancer patients, according to Naaman et al (2009), are unable to deal with these issues, hence develop undesirable attributes such as emotional distress, helplessness, anxiety, social inhibition, suppressed negative emotions and fear. In extreme cases, patients develop negative coping responses such as alcoholism and drug abuse. Such psychosocial factors and negative coping responses with the present condition adversely affects immune mechanisms, hence providing the much needed ground for the growth and spread of cancer. This observation implies that cancer can be curtailed from progressing through non-treatment means if cancer patients are able to control their psychosocial stress in addition to adopting positive coping responses.
Cells may malfunction or die if the DNA or the cell membrane becomes distorted for whatever reasons. The cells also may turn cancerous when they are destroyed by free radicals, which are atoms or groups of atoms with anomalous quantities of electrons primarily produced when oxygen intermingles with particular molecules (Naaman et al., 2009). The body’s immune mechanism reacts to such occurrences by naturally releasing antioxidants to terminate the interaction before essential molecules are destroyed, hence preventing cellular damage – the ordinary conduit for cancer. Some of the known antioxidants include vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene (Naaman et al., 2009).
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