Pouring emotion helps breast cancer survivors

New York, Aug 3 (IANS): Writing down fears, emotions and benefits of a cancer diagnosis may improve health outcomes for Asian-American breast cancer survivors, a research reveals.

"The key to developing an expressive writing intervention is the writing instruction. Otherwise, writing is just like a journal recording facts and events," said Qian Lu, assistant professor and director of the culture and health research centre at University of Houston (UH).

In her research, Lu found some of the challenges with the Asian-American breast cancer survivors were feeling stigmatised, shame associated with cancer, cultural beliefs of bearing the burden alone to avoid disrupting harmony and suppressing emotions.

Lu's research team asked participants to write 20 minutes each week for three weeks.

Three sealed envelopes were mailed simultaneously to the participants with each envelope containing different writing instructions for the corresponding week.

The findings suggest participants perceived the writing task to be easy, revealed their emotions, and disclosed their experiences in writing that they had not previously told others.

"Participants reported that they wrote down whatever they thought and felt and perceived the intervention to be appropriate and valuable," Lu added.

Previous research has found that writing about emotionally difficult events for just 20 to 30 minutes at a time over three or four days increased the immune function.

The release offered by writing had a direct impact on the body's capacity to withstand stress and fight off infection and disease.

"In my research, I found long-term physical and psychological health benefits when research participants wrote about their deepest fears and the benefits of a breast cancer diagnosis," Lu contended.

The study appeared in the journal Health Psychology.

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