Is There A Cancer-Prone Personality? (3 of 3)


Did you know that experiencing a significant loss 6 to 18 months prior to a cancer diagnosis may be the single biggest trigger in the development of cancer? Carl and Stephanie Simonton in their classic book ‘Getting Well Again’ decode the cancer-prone personality. Learn more.

Dr. O. Carl Simonton & Stephanie Simonton

Carl and Stephanie Simonton have pioneered the use of relaxation techniques and positive mental imagery since the mid-1970’s at their Cancer Counselling & Research Centre in Dallas, Texas.

Most people are unaware of the Simontons’ astonishing success rate. A vast majority of their patients come to their clinic with a diagnosis of ‘medically incurable malignancy’ i.e. an average life-expectancy of 12 months. However, after undergoing the Simonton’s program, the same patients lived on an average, one and a half to two times longer than those who received medical treatment alone.

In their landmark book Getting Well Again the Simontons have identified certain common features in the development of cancer in general, which are useful for us to consider.

The biggest single factor, emotionally, is a significant loss 6 to 18 months prior to the diagnosis of the disease. However, it is not the loss itself that is a significant factor, but the way that loss is perceived by the individual.

  • The loss has to be sufficient to cause a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that persists for a period of time, which lowers the individual’s resistance (including immunity), thus allowing the malignancy to develop clinically.
  • Cancer-susceptible individuals have a tendency towards self-pity, arising out of a poor self-image.
  • Their capacity for trust – both themselves and other people – is often limited. Usually, this stems from rejection, either real or imagined and could be either recent or ingrained from childhood.
  • There is a strong tendency to hold resentment; in other words, they experience great difficulty in forgiving and letting go of injustices done, once again either real or imagined.
  • Many such individuals are unable to develop and maintain long-term, meaningful relationships. They are either ‘loners’ by temperament or have many ‘casual’ relationships but very few deep ones to sustain them.

The Way Out: Hope Vs. Dread

The Simontons focus on ‘expectancy’ as the means to shift the patient’s life-orientation: ‘hope’ being positive expectancy and ‘dread’ being negative expectancy. In this context, three major belief-systems about the disease, the treatments and the ability to get well need to be addressed.

  1. The belief-system of the individual
  2. The belief-system of the family
  3. The belief-system of the physicians and the support staff

What they have noticed is that when the orientation changes from ‘dread’ to ‘hope’, something quite significant and dramatic happens. This transformation is not easy to describe, but it appears to be ‘psycho-spiritual’ in nature.

At its core, the individual starts to acknowledge “I know I have participated in the development and the progress of my disease. I know there are some deeper factors at work and I need help in dealing with them.”

Holistic & Integrated Approach

The Simonton’s central premise is that

“Emotional and mental states play a significant role both in susceptibility to and recovery from all disease, including cancer. If the total integrated system of body, mind and emotions, which constitutes the ‘whole’ person is not working in the direction of health, then purely physical interventions may not succeed.”

The core elements in their approach are:

  • Relaxation: to break the tension/ fear and accept the body as a partner in the healing process
  • Mental imagery: as a tool for actively influencing the immune system

Making Mental Imagery Work For You

The Simontons have identified 8 steps in the mental imagery process

  1. The cancer cells are weak and confused
  2. The treatment is strong and powerful
  3. The healthy cells have no difficulty repairing any slight damage the treatment might cause
  4. The army of white blood cells is vast and overwhelms the cancer cells
  5. The immune cells are aggressive, eager for battle, quick to seek out and destroy the cancer cells
  6. The dead cancer cells are flushed out from the body normally and naturally
  7. By the end of the imagery process, you are healthy and free of cancer
  8. You see yourself reaching your goals in life, fulfilling your life’s purpose


  • Do any of these patterns apply to you or to a loved one?
  • Which ones resonate most strongly?
  • What steps are you taking to manage or transform them?
  • Have you sought professional help or guidance in this area


Book: Getting Well Again by O. Carl Simonton & Stephanie Simonton (This link is for your information only. We do not earn any commissions/ fees when you click it and/or when you purchase the book.)


More from this series

Title About the article
Part 1 Based on the clear evidence that psychological factors – our belief systems, emotions, attitudes, behaviours, relationships, response to life events, etc. – play a role in causing illness and in preventing and reversing illness, the question often asked is: Is there a cancer-prone personality? And if so, what is its psychological basis?
Part 2 Let us take a second expert’s view of the cancer-prone personality.
Part 3 This is our 3rd article in this series investigating the Cancer-prone personality.




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