Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 37–39 | Cite as

Positive thinking: An unfair burden for cancer patients?

  • Cynthia N. Rittenberg
Review Article


This presentation challenges the purveyors of the importance of “positive thinking” in the cure of cancer. Psychological support should allow the patient to come to terms with his or her situation in a way that works for that individual within a caring and realistic environment. In no way should psychological support add an extra burden to an already devastated patient. By forcing “positive mental attitude”, health-care professionals are not allowing patients to face reality. Promoters of the “cure“ that comes with positive thinking are quoted, as well as authors who question the promoters' intent and outcome. It is felt that “positive thinking” may be appropriate as one of many successful coping strategies. To attribute more to it or, worse, to insist that patients believe in its power to cure may be courting emotional disaster.

Key words

Positive thinking Cancer Psychological support 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Broyard A (1983) Intoxicated by my illness. Potter, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bruckbauer E, Ward SE (1993) Positive mental attitude and health: what the public believes. Image 25:311–315Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cassileth BR, Stinnett JL (1982) Psychological problems. In: Cassileth BR, Cassileth PA (eds) Clinical care of the terminal patient. Lea & Febiger, New York, pp 108–118Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cassileth BR, Lusk EJ, Miller DS, Brown LL, Miller C (1985) Psychosocial correlates of survival in advanced malignant disease? N Engl J Med 312:1551–1555Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Godefroy CH (1992) Super healthhow to control your body's natural defences. Edi Inter, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Harpham WS (1992) Diagnosis cancer: your guide through the first few months. Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Harrison-Woermke DE, Graydon JE (1993) Perceived informational needs of breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy after excisional biopsy and axillary node dissection. Cancer Nurs 16:449–455Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Hill HL (1991) Point and counter-point: relationships in oncology care. J Psychosoc Oncol 92:97–112Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jamison RN, Burish TG, Wallston KA (1987) Psychogenic factors in predicting survival of breast cancer patients. J Clin Oncol 5:768–772Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Lederberg MS, Holland JS, Massie MJ (1989) Psychologic aspects of patients with man. In: De Vita VT, Hellman S, Rosenberg SA (eds) Cancer: principles and practice of oncology. Lippincott, Philadelphia, pp 2191–2205Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Massie MJ, Sinsheimer L (1991) Common psychiatric syndromes in the cancer patient. In: Wittes RE (ed) Manual of oncologic therapeutics. Lippincott, Philadelphia, pp 384–389Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Siegel BS (1986) Love, medicine and miracles. Harper & Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Silberfarb PM, Anderson KM, Rundle AC, Holland JCB, Cooper MR, McIntyre OR (1991) Mood and clinical status in patients with multiple myeloma. J Clin Oncol 9:2219–2224Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Simonton OC, Matthew-Simonton S, Creighton JL (1992) Getting well again. Bantam, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Zaloznik AJ (1994) Unproven (unorthodox) cancer treatments: a guide for healthcare professionals. Cancer Prac 2:19–24Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia N. Rittenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Ochsner Cancer InstituteNew OrleansUSA

Personalised recommendations