Increasing the Odds

It has been felt for many years that there is a relationship between the patient’s mental attitude and successful cancer treatment. A great deal of effort has been put into scientifically proving this relationship with very little definitive results.

There are many anecdotal stories validating the premise but very little substantive proof. Personally, I have never talked with an oncologist who did not agree that a patient who believed they were going to die could not be successfully treated for cancer, no matter how treatable their disease. If they thought they were going to die, they were as good as dead. That is not to say that if they thought they would live, they would be cured, but at least they had a chance.

Norman Cousins indicates he was cured from a serious illness by exposing himself to laughter. A Harvard cardiologist states that a treatment given by an optimistic physician is far more effective than the same treatment proffered by a skeptical physician. I felt my attitude had a great deal to do with my recovery from “terminal” cancer nineteen years ago.

Shortly thereafter I felt it was important to develop a set of questions that could determine if a patient was truly susceptible to successful treatment. This quiz was not designed in any way to change or influence a person but merely to ascertain their receptivity to successful treatment. My goal is to help people who want to be helped.

A great deal of money and effort is placed into testing new drugs and methods of treatment. The results determine the acceptability of these trials. They should be tested on people who are most likely to be successfully treated to have the best and truest results. Why condemn a potentially successful treatment just because the subjects on which it was tried had no strong will to live?

Using this as a premise, in 1982 I set up three independent groups of doctors to come up with questions that would indicate that a patient had a true desire for recovery. These groups were at the National Cancer Institute, Memorial, Sloan-Kettering and a group of physicians in Kansas City. From their work and efforts, I put together a quiz with 19 questions that an individual can take in complete privacy and self score to ascertain if they are receptive to successful treatments or they should seek help. That is the entire purpose.

This quiz is the 4th chapter of the book, Fighting Cancer, free by calling the Bloch Cancer Hotline at 800-433-0464 or here at this web site. It originally had 19 questions but has since been reduced to 18 because the one question was too narrow and missed by too many people.

That question was, “Have you changed your lifestyle since being diagnosed with cancer?” Sounds simple enough. It was provided by the NCI because they had run a trial that proved that people with metastatic malignant melanoma who do not change their lifestyle have a higher incidence of early recurrence. It does not apply to any other disease in their findings so it was felt inappropriate when others answered in the negative.

Taking this quiz is just one of the many suggestions in Fighting Cancer that we believe might help a patient and can not possibly hurt. As cancer patients, we want to do everything in our power to recover and once we are well, we can have the luxury of looking back and trying to figure out what truly helped and what was a waste of time.