The mind's power may help fight cancer

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Whether it's the stress of daily deadlines or watching her daughters compete in sports, FOX 13's Linda Hurtado says taking quick, daily micro-breaks helps her relax.

"You could step out of the office and close the door to a room and meditate for two to three minutes," Hurtado explains.

It's a technique she learned after discovering she had breast cancer at age 44.

"I won't lie, I cried my eyes out for the first couple of days. I couldn’t even go back to work," she says.

Linda wasn't just coping with her own diagnosis. She was also dealing with memories of her mother's unsuccessful, 10-year battle with the disease. Linda's mother died at age 60.

"I watched my mother die, I mean, I watched her die. She had a bone marrow transplant and I was right by her bed, it was traumatic," she remembers.

After her surgery, Linda became a participant in a clinical trial at the University of South Florida designed to study mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).

"I signed up for it and, you know, it didn't take too much time. They took our blood and our saliva, but what I really loved is they gave us ways to deal with stress," she says.

Dr. Cecile Lengacher is a professor at the University of South Florida College of Nursing. As a breast cancer survivor, she also understands the anxiety that can be associated with a cancer diagnosis.

"We put a lot of worry into things that never occur," Lengacher says.

In the MBSR program, breast cancer patients are taught to live in the moment. It is based on teachings from the book, "Wherever You Go, There You Are," by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

"We teach them to be mindful where they're at and what they're doing, so if they're on the phone or just concentrating... like washing dishes, preparing a meal or doing laundry," she explains.

Along with the mindful is the physical. Some patients practice yoga. While more results are pending, initial results published in the June 2016 Journal of Clinical Oncology, reveal it's benefits.

"It decreased their fear of recurrence.... and anxiety, it decreased their fatigue and increased their quality of life," she states. "All it does is clear your mind of the raging thoughts that are whipping around in there and it does control, it brings your heart rate down and calms you."

Although Linda is now cancer free, she still listens to the relaxation exercises on her phone. She's hoping it will help lessen the chance of recurrence.

"I believe that stress is very much a part of any kind of illness, including cancer. I mean, it can be, you know the lighter fluid on cancer cells," Linda

Dr. Lengacher is continuing to study the effects on MBSR on memory. USF is actively recruiting patients with early stage cancers who are completing chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments. She also says they are continuing to analyze the blood and saliva specimens and also planning to study genetic markers. Those results have not yet been published.

LINK: "Wherever You Go, There You Are" (audio) on Youtube