Monday, May 9, 2011

Infectious Disease and Psychological Distress

This study, supported by the DAMD explores the idea that psychological stress can put people at greater risk for infectious disease. The study was performed on women who had breast cancer and were going in for their chemotherapy treatments. The stress levels were highest on the days of their first treatment which coincided with the window of most likely to get an infectious disease due to treatment.

The question is if the psychological stress is actually causing the vulnerability to infectious disease or if it is really just the first round of vicious chemotherapy which is putting these patients at risk. It is natural that these women are under the most amount of stress during their first treatment because they are already facing a life threatening illness on top of having to endure for the first time what they know will be a long, difficult, and physically draining process.

Related to this, but aside from infectious disease, I wonder if the stress of these situations rise if the chemotherapy doesn't work and the patient's cancer gets worse. In this case, I am sure the chance of infectious disease will rise even higher due to weakened immune systems but can this also be because of the elevated stress levels? It is difficult to differentiate between the two since they are happening at the same time and one cannot happen without the other.

I think that stress can definitely make people sick. Adding the incredibly high stress levels of these patients on top of their already compromised physical well-being, I can't imagine that stress wouldn't play a part in worsening their conditions. These types of illnesses can also strip the patient of their want to live which makes a drastic difference in whether they survive the rest of their treatment or not.

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