According to research results released today, your chances of successfully recovering from cancer does not improve if you have a positive attitude.

Experts are now telling doctors that they may, in fact, be burdening their patients by encouraging them to keep up hope.

Researchers followed 179 patients for five years (Australia). When the study ended in 2001 there were only eight still alive. They had all been suffering from lung cancer (a common form).

Experts say this is the first study that looks at optimism and cancer, despite it being a small study and focussing on one of the most fatal ones (lung cancer has a 12% survival rate after five years).

Researchers were surprised with their findings. They had expected the optimistic patients to live longer than the pessimistic ones.

Many experts (from this study) say that patients are burdened by trying to maintain a positive outlook during their hard times.

As patients learned more about the realities of their disease, their optimism diminished. They also became less optimistic (or more pessimistic) when they experienced the toxic effects of cancer treatment.

?We should question whether it is valuable to encourage optimism if it results in the patient concealing his or her distress in the misguided belief that this will afford survival benefits,? the study?s lead author, Penelope Schofield, wrote.

?If a patient feels generally pessimistic ... it is important to acknowledge these feelings as valid and acceptable.?

The American Cancer Society said that even though having a positive attitude may not help the patient live longer, it will (may) help him/her in other ways:

- Their eating habits improve

- They stop smoking

- They drink less (alcohol)

- They exercise more

- They learn more about treatment options.

Cancer patients have learned to live with therapy, avoid fatigue and even have returned to work, said Dr LaMar McGinnis, senior medical consultant for the Atlanta-based society.

?It is disappointing they don?t reflect on quality of life,? McGinnis said. ?We did not have any illusions that optimism influences therapy but we do believe that optimism and hope does influence the quality of life a patient has.?