Fighting Cancer: Is Laughter the Best Medicine? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on January 21, 2013

Fighting Cancer: Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

There is plenty of evidence that attitude matters when it comes to battling cancer. The disease is obviously draining for the patient, not to mention for friends, colleagues and loved ones. Cancer is an emotional disease that forces people to face mortality.

Having an optimistic attitude makes a difference. It’s unrealistic to think that you can be sunny and upbeat all the time if you’re fighting the disease, and patients should not put pressure on themselves to be as perky as a morning television personality. But maintaining some level of optimism has been shown to help.

And laughing is a good idea.

Laughter can be a powerful antidote to the stress, pain, and worry brought about by cancer. It can help bring your thinking back into balance, and help you get through the day by lightening your burden – basically, it enables you to take a break from the otherwise all-encompassing battle.

And there’s some evidence that it does have a positive physiological impact. One study from Loma Linda University showed that laughing raises the levels of disease-fighting immunoglobulins by 14 percent. And a study from Maryland showed that subjects who watched the silly movie There’s Something About Mary had the same increase in blood flow as if they’d been running on a treadmill.

Laughter can help to release endorphins, lower blood sugar levels provide some pain relief and help us relax and sleep. We even burn a few calories when we laugh.

So laughter has significant benefits and can help lift the spirits of a person or family coping with cancer.

Of course, the question in the headline wonders if laughter is indeed the best medicine. And the full truth is that it’s not – we don’t want to leave the impression that patients should abandon their oncologists’ prescribed treatment and head to a comedy club.

But, then again, laughter is free. You don’t need a prescription. And it does provide benefits in the struggle to take on the disease, a malady that requires you to use everything at your disposal if you’re going to beat it.

So it’s probably worth adding a few giggles and a couple of yuks to your cancer-fighting regimen.

For more information about Crozer-Keystone Health System Cancer Services, visit http://ckcancer.crozerkeystone.org. You can also call 1-866-695-HOPE (4673) to request an appointment with a physician who cares for cancer patients.

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