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Writing Therapy for Cancer Patients

There are many useful alternative therapies available for cancer patients, including those with mesothelioma. These therapeutic strategies go beyond traditional talk therapy. While the main focus of treatment for cancer patients is on the cancer itself, mounting evidence proves addressing the patient’s mental, emotional, and social health also promote healing.

Writing is one therapeutic strategy that helps patients, including those with serious illnesses like caner. Research has shown that writing is not just good for mental health but may also improve physical health, boost immune function, and promote general healing. There are many potential benefits of writing and no reasons not to try it.

Writing as Therapy

Writing therapy is one of several types of creative or expressive therapies guided by trained therapists. These therapies use the creative process to explore emotions and help the writer cope with negative feelings and experiences. Writing can be used for all types of patients and can be adapted to meet a wide range of goals. These goals include reducing anxiety and fear, managing stress, coping with trauma, and coming to terms with a poor cancer prognosis.

While anyone can write with therapeutic goals, the best outcomes occur when a trained and licensed therapist guides the patient through the process. Writing therapy may be used in one-on-one therapy sessions, group settings, or as one-time therapeutic workshops for cancer patients.

Writing for Expression

One obvious benefit of therapeutic writing is that it helps patients express things that are difficult to think or talk about. When living with cancer, most patients experience negative feelings like fear, anxiety, and anger. They may find it difficult to talk about these feelings or even to confront them within themselves. Being asked to write about these feelings forces the patient to put into words something that is difficult to confront. It also helps them better communicate these difficult feelings with others, especially their loved ones.

Writing Improves Mental Health

Most research on writing therapy has focused on patients being treated for mental illness. Results of this research are positive and could extend to cancer patients who struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. For example, studies indicate writing therapy helps reduce stress, symptoms of depression, fear, and anxiety. Even without a mental illness diagnosis, most cancer patients experience these emotions. Writing can help reduce these feelings.

Writing to Overcome Trauma and Stress

Researchers have found that therapeutic writing helps people overcome trauma, stress, and specific events that have caused psychological harm. For cancer patients, writing can help them deal with the stress of having this terrible disease. Some people can better cope with mortality and the changes associated with living with cancer. Others have a more difficult time. There is evidence that writing specifically about difficult experiences and stressful events can help people cope. As a result, these patients often see psychological and emotional improvements.

Writing and Physical Health

The benefits of therapeutic writing include emotional benefits. However, but research has also found writing can boost activity of the immune system. Many new areas of cancer treatment work with the immune system. This is because the immune system is already designed to attack pathogens. Therefore, harnessing its power to attack cancer cells is an exciting new way to fight tumors.

More than one study has come to this conclusion, although there is disagreement as to why writing might have this physical effect. Regardless, this is an important discovery for cancer patients. Patients need the immune system to fight cancer, but they also may suffer deficiencies in immunity as a result of treatments like chemotherapy. Cancer patients benefit from anything that boosts immune function.

Other studies have used writing therapy for patients with illnesses including HIV/AIDS and rheumatoid arthritis. In these studies, patients wrote about stressful life events for 20 minutes per day for several days. As compared to a control group, these patients either had improved health markers, or their health markers did not deteriorate as they did in the control group.

Writing Improves Quality of Life

One study of expressive writing engaged several adult cancer patients to determine how writing before medical appointments could benefit them. Results were positive and demonstrated that writing therapy, even without the guidance of a therapist, could improve patient quality of life. The study relied on patient self-reporting, and those who completed the writing assignment said they felt better physically. They also reported feeling calmer and more reflective about their illnesses.

Writing as therapy is not a new idea but is gaining popularity evidence accumulates proving its positive benefits. While writing without guidance may provide benefits, the best outcomes occur when patients work with a trained therapist. If you are living with mesothelioma, you should try writing about your feelings and experiences. For additional benefits, reach out to your medical team to find writing programs for patients.

Page Edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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