Does stress cause cancer?

Does stress cause cancer?

After a good workout in my gym the other day, I had an interesting conversation with my nutritionist, Seema. She was talking about how stress has become a consistent part of modern-day life. She said that while stress is the body’s natural reaction to challenges, prolonged exposure to it can have undesirable physiological and psychological consequences. It can trigger illnesses by causing changes in behaviour and physiology. This got me thinking.

How much stress is bad or good for you?

She said, “From a psychological standpoint, a little bit of stress is necessary and even healthy. There are external factors related to our immediate environment that causes stress, but when an individual’s perception of demands being placed on them outweighs their ability to cope, the situation is then deemed stressful.”

“Seriously, does a little bit of stress actually do good?”

“Yes!” she added, “‘Positive stress plays a major role in motivation, adapting to change, and reacting to often-unfamiliar environments. It is also known to help improve athletic performance. On the flip side, the temporary stress you feel during your daily commute or before making an important presentation is called acute stress. This usually subsides in a short while and is generally harmless to your health.”

Stress could be a trigger for serious illnesses

When stress becomes a cause for concern – when it is persistent and lingers for weeks or even months. Chronic stress inhibits the body’s ability to fight disease and increases the risk of illnesses, some of which include:

  •  Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression
  • Ulcers Gastrointestinal ailments
  • Strokes and heart attacks
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Diabetics
  • Obesity
  • Cancer

Seeing the concern on my face, Seema added, “Don’t think too much about it. It is not stress itself that leads to an increased risk of illness or death. It is the permanent changes in your physiological, emotional, and behavioural responses that are the most likely to cause a medical condition.”

Intrigued, I started reading and here’s what I found out:

Our current lifestyle has led to a manifold increase in stress and stress-related issues, making us prone to different critical diseases; sometimes even at an early age.

Cancer is one of the most widespread, prolonged and expensive diseases caused by stress. Add to that the high costs of procedures and treatments, and you have a disease that imposes a huge financial burden on your family. Dealing with it can put an enormous dent in your savings.

Despite the tremendous investment in its early detection and treatment over the years, cancer remains one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide. Several factors contribute to the onset of cancer, including age, gender, and environment, which are beyond our control. Industry reports state that cancer is amongst the fastest growing critical diseases in India. There are over 1 million new cases every year and this number is expected to cross 1.5 million by 2030! * Thought provoking, isn’t it?

However, a World Health Organization (WHO)** study suggests that over 30% of cancer cases can be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle or by immunisation against cancer-causing infections like HBV and HPV. And since stress is also an important catalyst in the process, how you cope with it impacts your immune system and ability to heal.

This is when I decided to take preventive measures.

Preventive measures – Now is the time!

Seema, supportive of the positive steps I was going to take, gave me a few health and lifestyle tips. Choices that even you can easily make to reduce the risk of developing critical illnesses, including cancer.

1. Eat healthy to prevent future critical illnesses – You are what you eat

Unhealthy diets have been associated with different types of cancer such as mouth cancer, lung cancer, upper throat cancer, stomach cancer and bowel cancer.

While there is no guarantee that avoiding certain foods will keep cancer at bay, you can lower the risks by keeping a close eye on your diet.

Tips

  • Avoiding processed foods and opting for healthy, wholesome meals with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and high-fibre foods is a good way to begin.
  • A food diary can help keep a tab on what you eat, how you eat and when you eat. The importance of cutting out tobacco and alcohol consumption cannot be emphasised enough.

2. Stay active to lower stress and reduce cancer risk - 30 minutes is all it takes

Even through busy schedules, you must make time for physical activity. Incorporating exercise into your daily life is essential for lowering stress.

Tip - Exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week can keep you healthy and indirectly lower the risk of cancerous growths by preventing lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

3. Avoid smoking to stay healthy – All it takes is a puff to burn a hole in your pocket

Tobacco has repeatedly been linked to the growing occurrences of cancer. In fact, tobacco consumption is the single largest preventable cause of the disease, causing 22% of cancer deaths worldwide***. Not only do you put yourself at risk by smoking, but you also endanger the lives of those around you.

Tips

  • Make a conscious decision to quit and set a date
  • Understand why and when you smoke
  • Find out what you can do alternatively when faced with a craving
  • Quit when you in a positive mood
  • Throw away anything at home that reminds you of smoking.

An inspiring thought…

It is said that the risk of lung cancer is reduced by 30% to 50% within 10 years for those people who quit smoking and the risk of mouth cancer is reduced by 50% within 5 years after quitting.****

Cancer Insurance Coverage – Be prepared in time of critical illnesses

Buying a cancer insurance plan is important because

  • Firstly, it covers you and your family in case of cancer detection or diagnosis
  • Secondly, it secures your finances and helps you deal with the financial burden of cancer treatment. Cancer insurance covers complete cost of treatment, and not just in-patient bills
  • Thirdly, cancer insurance plans are available at relatively low premiums.

Cancer insurance – how it covers treatment costs

As the number of people being diagnosed with some form of cancer is growing alarmingly fast, so is the cost of treatment. This is due to a mismatch in demand and supply. Testing and treatment infrastructure, R&D facilities, and availability of paramedics are simply not keeping pace. In India, cancers are detected in their advanced stages because voluntary screening is low, even among the educated. The baseline cost is, therefore, very high.

Cancer insurance policies help against the erosion of personal savings, the derailment of future goals, and leaving households debt-ridden. This is exactly why a cancer insurance plan, one that covers all stages of cancers, becomes a necessity.

Like Seema said, “Cancer insurance helps you ease the burden of treatment expenses without compromising your family’s financial security.”

In India, cancer insurance generally covers expenses towards initial diagnosis, surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy, and experimental treatment. Polices pay a lump sum amount which can be used according to requirements. Certain plans even cover smokers.

Cancer insurance policies should be bought alongside a health insurance or family floater policy. Apart from direct cancer-related expenses, a cancer insurance plan can help you manage accommodation and other out-of-pocket expenses, up to a certain limit.”

Cancer and other critical illnesses cause a lot of distress. But smart planning can give you peace of mind and a better chance to fight the illness. Buy a cancer insurance policy now!

 

 

Sources:

* http://www.who.int/nmh/publications/ncd_report_chapter1.pdf

** Global Action Plan for The Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, 2013-2020. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/94384/1/9789241506236_eng.pdf?ua=1

*** http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/

**** http://www.who.int/tobacco/quitting/benefits/en/

 

Max Life Cancer Insurance Plan (UIN- 104N093V02)- A Non-Linked Non-Participating Insurance Plan. Benefits defined under the plan are payable only on diagnosis of Cancer as specified. There is no maturity or surrender benefit available under the plan.

1) The information in this article has been collected through secondary research and Max Life Insurance Company Limited is not responsible for the accuracy of the content
2) This information is provided for general knowledge only. Kindly consult your doctor/physician for any specific queries


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