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OVERCOMING CANCER: THE RESULTS
After three years of teaching patients to use their minds and emotions to alter the course of their malignancies, we decided to conduct a study aimed at distinguishing the effects of emotional and medical treatments to demonstrate scientifically that the emotional treatment was indeed having an effect.
We began studying a group of patients with malignancies deemed medically incurable. Expected survival time for the average patient with such a malignancy is twelve months.
In the past four years, we have treated 159 patients with a diagnosis of medically incurable malignancy. Sixty-three of the patients are alive, with an average survival time of 24.4 months since the diagnosis. Life expectancy for this group, based on national norms, is 12 months. A matched control population is being developed and preliminary results indicate survival comparable with national norms and less than half the survival time of our patients. With the patients in our study who have died, their average survival time was 20.3 months. In other words, the patients in our study who are alive have lived, on the average, two times longer than patients who received medical treatment alone. Even those patients in the study who have died still lived one and one-half times longer than the control group.
As of January 1978, the status of the disease in the patients still living is as follows:
Keep in mind that 100 percent of these patients were considered medically incurable.
Of course, duration of life after diagnosis is only one aspect of the disease. Of equal (or perhaps greater) importance is the quality of life while the patient survives. There are few existing objective measures of quality of life; however, one measure we keep is the level of daily activity maintained during and after treatment compared to the level of activity prior to diagnosis. At present, 51 percent of our patients maintain the same level of activity they had prior to the diagnosis; 76 percent are at least 75 percent as active as they were prior to diagnosis. Based on our clinical experience, this level of activity for "medically incurable" patients is no less than extraordinary.
The results from our approach to cancer treatment make us confident that the conclusions we have drawn are correct— that an active and positive participation can influence the onset of the disease, the outcome of treatment, and quality of life.
Some people may be concerned that we are offering "false hope," that by suggesting people can influence the course of their disease we are raising unrealistic expectations. It is true that the course of cancer differs so dramatically from person to person that we would not presume to offer guarantees. There is always uncertainty, as there is with standard medical procedures, but hope, we feel, is an appropriate stance to take toward uncertainty.
As we shall see in detail in future chapters, expectancy, either positive or negative, can play a significant role in determining an outcome. A negative expectation will prevent the possibility of disappointment, but it may also contribute to a negative outcome that was not inevitable.
There are no guarantees at this time that a positive expectation of recovery will be realized. But without hope the person has only hopelessness (a feeling that, as we will see, is already too much a part of the cancer patient's life and personality). We do not deny the possibility of death; indeed, we work hard with our patients to help them confront it as a possible outcome. We also work to help them believe that they can influence their condition and that their mind, body, and emotions can work together to create health.