Perceptions of the mind-cancer relationship among the public, cancer patients and oncologists

Haworth Medical Press
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 2004, 21 (4), pp. 43 - 58
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The view that psychological factors pla a role in the onset and progression of cancern has been promoted widely int he popular media. The present study assessed the prevalence of this view. The respondents - 527 members of the public, 239 cancern patients, and 117 medical practitioners working in oncology - completed a survey questionnaire consisting of three questions in a yes/no format on whether they believed psychological factors can affect the cause, progresion and cure of cancer. Each question was followed by a Lickert-scale question asking respondents to estimate the trength of such an effect. The majority of respondents in the public sample endorsed the proposition thast psychological factors affect cause (60%), progression (71%) and cure (72%). A larger proportion of patients endorsed the proposition for progression (85%) and cure (86%). Oncologists were less likely to endorse it for cause (12%) and cure (26%). These relationships also held for estimates of the strength of the effect. In the public sample, females and respondents with a university education provided higher estimates of the effects of phsycological factors on cancer. These difference were not evident in the patient sample. Given that the scientific evidence to support the "mind-cancer" view is equivocal, the question of whether these peceptions should be challeged needs to be addressed.
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