Fibromyalgia: A Cancer Connector?

doctor treating fibromyalgiaChronic pain and fatigue make life unbearable at times and may drastically reduce the quality of life for sufferers of fibromyalgia.  Sadly, those difficulties might increase your risk at other health issues.  Some believe that having fibromyalgia may lead to a later diagnosis of cancer.  A study in the United Kingdom reported those with severe body pain had a higher risk of cancer and a reduced cancer survival rate compared to those without widespread chronic pain.

What is This Connection?

Through the use of medical records of patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia, researchers were able to collected data and document that these patients were 30% more likely than others to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma later in life.  This team of doctors and researchers used medical notes, insurance claims, and other documentation to show that the link between cancer and widespread pain appears to be linked to a weakened immune system due to a type of infection or injury.

In a follow-up study, consisting of 6,000 participants (40% or roughly 2,400 people reporting no pain) and none had prior cancer diagnosis.  Of the 3,600 with widespread pain, nearly 400 were diagnosed with a form of cancer at some point in the nine years following the original study.  Breast, prostate, and colon cancer were the most commonly diagnosed forms.

While doctors believe that fibromyalgia is not a fatal condition and have reported this information to their patients, medical researchers believe this isn’t 100% valid information.  While this condition doesn’t guarantee other health risks, it does almost double the chance of dying from cancer if diagnosed later in life.

Managing Cancer and Fibromyalgia

Once diagnosed with cancer, many fibromyalgia patients have reported a significant increase in their pain and symptoms. Many people suffering from fibromyalgia already struggle with depression or feelings of isolation thanks to their daily and debilitating pain.  When treatment of cancer begins, more medication can create a lot of unforeseen obstacles.  Depending on the severity of the cancer, chemotherapy and radiation may be involved.  Facing both of these health conditions at the same time requires a lot of support and encouragement from friends, because often times drastic lifestyle changes are necessary to fight this battle.

With the body already at a weaker state from the pain, working through the changes of cancer treatments is definitely an uphill battle.  Many have found that work becomes extremely difficult with inability to drive due to medication, nausea, and chronic fatigue joining the ranks of your already nagging aches and pains.  The most important step in managing a diagnosis of cancer with fibromyalgia is commit to you regularly scheduled visits with your doctor, follow suggested treatment plan, monitor any changes in your condition, and stay positive.  Don’t let fear, anxiety or depression bring down your thoughts.  Fear can add to your already weakened immune system.

Steps In The Right Direction

This may be the time in life that you have to ask yourself about your priorities and reevaluate some things and possibly people around you.  Should you come up against this fight, you want to hit the battlefield with the strongest and most supportive people standing beside you.  Remove those people that bring you down and create unnecessary stress in your life.  Don’t allow others or your own worries and negative thoughts to cloud your mind.  Keep your eye on the prize of getting healthy and staying healthy.

Consider keeping a journal of your journey.  Some of those days may not be ones that you necessarily want to remember, but documenting how you feel (both physically and emotionally) may be able to help you or family members notice any trends that might be setting off anxiety  during those difficult days.  This journal is a wonderful way to help you communicate things back to your physician, as well.  When you have a million other things running through your mind, it’s easy to forget what you wanted to ask or say when you have a visit, but your journal will have all of that information available for you.

Don’t forget to take some time for yourself to just reflect, relax and decompress.  Taking part in relaxation activities such as calm breathing and meditation may become wonderful source of strength for you


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