People have debated whether a cancer patient's attitude could influence recovery for years and though scientists haven't found any concrete evidence linking positive thinking and remission, groups like the American Cancer Society still encourage patients to receive emotional support through therapy and relaxation for improved mental health.
But what if we told you that while social interactions are undeniably important for those in treatment, their chances of recovering could actually matter more on who patients are talking to rather than what they're talking about?
A new study from the UK suggests that the interactions chemotherapy patients have with each other could impact their chances of survival, Reuters reports.
While monitoring chemo patients, researchers reportedly found that people who were seated next to someone "who survived for five years or longer were more likely to survive for at least five years themselves," according to Reuters. Likewise, patients who sat next to people who didn't passed away within five years were at a higher risk of dying during a similar timeframe, too.
And it wasn't just a few people: Researchers monitored 4,691 people over the course of nine years (from 2000 to 2009) and found that 72% of the patients who were seated around people who died within five years also died. The mortality rate dropped to 68% when patients received treatment next to people who had survived for at least five years following their diagnosis.
Reuters spoke with one of the researchers, Jeff Lienert, a fellow at the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute's Social and Behavioral and Research Branch, who said that social interactions were most impactful when "the time is concentrated among a few people," such as when patients are undergoing intravenous treatment in an open setting.
"Social influence in the chemotherapy ward matters, and specifically it has both positive and negative effects," Lienert said.
You might be thinking: "But, some people opt not to talk to others while undergoing chemo. Are their results any different?" Yes, as it turns out, they are.
Based on their research, Lienert's team estimated that people who were isolated "had a 69.5% chance of surviving for five years," leaving them better off than those who were around patients who died within five years by 1.5%.
While this study is certainly eye-opening, it's important to note that the number of people who will survive cancer heavily depends on patient access to healthcare. With the Senate's decision to move forward with the repeal and replace of Obamacare, millions of Americans now have to worry about whether they will still be covered under Medicaid, have access to preventative care centers like Planned Parenthood, or even qualify for coverage since cancer is seen as a preexisting condition.
Aside from encouraging positive conversations and social interactions, we need to prove our commitment to increased cancer survival rates by fighting for continued health coverage and more affordable treatment options.