Words Have a Powerful Influence on Health

Words Have a Powerful Influence on Health

© GLOW IMAGES Models used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

A patient’s fear is an important consideration in treating disease, and the word cancer brings with it significant fear when used in patient diagnosis. That’s what scientists are realizing and why there is now a push to leave out the mention of cancer in diagnosis of certain precancerous conditions. In this way, scientists are hoping to “reign in over-diagnosis” in areas of cancer diagnosis, because less fearful patients are less likely to seek treatments that prove to be unneeded.

Dr. Otis W. Brawley, the chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, and Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, Professor of Medicine at Dartmouth, both support this effort to end over-diagnosis. Welch explained, “The basic strategy behind early diagnosis is to encourage the well to get examined — to determine if they are not, in fact, sick. But is looking hard for things to be wrong a good way to promote health? The truth is, the fastest way to get [most any disease] is to be screened for it.”

Changing or eliminating fear words puts into practice the understanding of how fear affects the mind and the body. Fear is mental but often expresses itself in unhealthy bodily conditions. According to Lissa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine, when a person is fearful, the body is unable to repair itself.  Rankin and Dr. Larry Norton, a cancer researcher who offers “a potent drug of [invigorating] and pugnacious hope,” both feel a way to stem and dissolve fear is to encourage a patient’s spiritual identity. Norton also suggests that to take care of someone’s body and not their soul is not to take care of them fully.

Along this same line of thought, a 19th-century theologian and health researcher, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, “…sickness is belief, a latent fear, made manifest on the body in different forms of fear or disease.” Patients can use a number of different tools to keep fear and its accompanying sickness from taking hold. Many find that prayer, and understanding their connection to the Divine, lead to a sense of peace and security that makes clear their spiritual identity. Patients can also actively exchange unhealthy thoughts, such as anger, resentment, and fear, for healthier thoughts, such as gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness. These spiritual thoughts provide additional mental and physical benefits and never come with unhealthy side effects.

Changing the language used to diagnose various conditions, as well as encouraging a patient’s thinking while treating the body, are positive ways of controlling fear. This nuanced name change is just one step toward the gradual understanding that mind is in control of the body. The results directly affect health.

Article first published in Blogcritics.

About the author

Don Ingwerson Don regularly blogs on health and spirituality and lives in Laguna Beach with his wife - both Christian Science practitioners. He brings his years serving the public in education to his work as a liaison of Christian Science, where he maintains contacts with the media and legislative offices.


  1. Pamela says

    Wow! Thanks Don, this was a wonderful blog to share. Fear is a powerful force against good. It brings with it too much speculation and not enough reality. I am so grateful to hear that there is a shift in thought among doctors to not use certain words in their diagnosis. It is wonderful to see there is a coming change in our society to a recognition of man’s spiritual nature. This can only bless our world for the better. Thanks so much.

  2. says

    Thank you, Don. This is a reminder of the account in Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy, the 19th-century theologian and health researcher, about the patient who thought he was occupying a bed which a cholera patient had died. The aggressive suggestion and name of the disease were fear provoking and caused the patient also to die, when no cholera patient had actually slept there. Think of this in context with the modern physician naming and describing the disease. These thought pictures act as a negative catalyst to produce the evidence described and held in thought. This article will help to act as a positive Wake Up Call for less disease naming and describing.

  3. Anne from Agoura says

    I like a relative’s term for sickness, “Picture-itis.” Getting rid of a picture of disease in thought does not require medication. Prayer brings a change of thought that moves it off. When I thought of it as a picture, and not a solid fact, it took away fear.