Stephani Christensen, M.D., an oncologist at Comprehensive Cancer helps patients balance optimism, hope and reality when facing cancer

An important part of going through cancer, as well as relating to those going through treatment for the disease, comes from kindness. Stephani Christensen, M.D. and team at Comprehensive Cancer Centers, knows that it’s important to have kindness for yourself, during trying times, and for others at all times.

Stephani Christensen, M.D., a medical oncologist at Comprehensive Cancer Centers, tells her patients the best way to engage with kindness is to hope for the best, but also plan for the worst. She shared her perspectives on this topic in a recent issue of Vegas, Inc., with regard to how kindness to oneself and others can be framed through positivity and hope, as well as realism.

“There’s no reason not to think positive when you get a grim diagnosis because there are patients that beat the odds and do great. My patients are on a journey where they’re going to be exposed to a lot of toxicity, so a lot of people won’t do it unless they have hope they’ll end up on the other side. But we need to be realistic and plan for things that could happen along the way.”

As Dr. Christensen notes, hope may not save us, but arguably, that’s not the function of hope either. Hope isn’t the cure, but it can be a bridge that motivates to continue long enough that something could change. And even if nothing does change, even if the situation is truly dire, approaching challenges with a hopeful mindset may still improve your quality of experience. With everything, balance is key, and excessive hope can create a false reality. An increasingly common term for this type of attitude is called toxic positivity, which describes the belief that, regardless of the situation, one should maintain a sunny outlook and cheery disposition. Perhaps well-intended, it can also be dismissive and counterproductive.

Christensen notes the negative impact of the narrative of being positive as well.

“I think some patients end up feeling a lot of guilt or undue pressure when people are telling them to stay positive when a lot of what’s going on is not positive. They don’t feel good, they’re on drugs that don’t make them feel good, very often, it’s hard to stay positive,” she said.

“I always say if we can keep you alive these five years, there could be another drug that’s around the corner that can keep you alive another year. And after that, another year. With the research that we’re doing, I think that we’re going to see better outcomes, and that’s certainly a reason to be hopeful,” Christensen said. “There’s been significant progress in diagnosing, treating and even prolonging life in the most common cancers. And survival rate has increased and continues to increase, all of which is great.”

Comprehensive Cancer Centers currently has clinical trials open for the following cancer types: bladder, breast, endometrial, gastric, head and neck, hematologic, lung, lymphoma, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, renal, and solid tumors. These are for a range of patients—from patients that have had no previous therapy, to patients that have had multiple prior lines of therapy. Clinical trials like these shape the landscape of medical intervention and maintain hope in medicine.

Clinical research is a critical component in Comprehensive Cancer Centers’ efforts in expanding treatment options for people with all types of cancer. Research studies are experimental treatments for patients that offer specific advantages for their cancer type. Since all new therapies must be evaluated through clinical research, the greater the number of people who participate, the faster emerging anti-cancer therapies can be brought to market.

About Dr. Stephani Christensen

Dr. Stephani Christensen is a medical oncologist and hematologist at Comprehensive Cancer Centers where she treats patients with cancer and serious blood disorders. She is actively involved in clinical research having served as principal investigator for many trials, as noted above.

Dr, Christensen graduated from University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in American history. In 2009, she received her medical degree from University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. She completed her residency in internal medicine and fellowship in hematology and medical oncology at Rush University Medical Center.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers Can Help

Physicians at Comprehensive Cancer Centers provide a variety of treatment options for those with cancer. All treatments done in Southern Nevada.  To schedule an appointment with Comprehensive, please call 702-952-3350.

The content in this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.