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For further information about neurofeedback, biofeedback, and psychotherapeutic services offered by Drs. Dan and Lucy Chartier and their associates, contact:


5613 Duraleigh Road, #101
Raleigh, NC 27612
Telephone: (919) 782-4597

Stress: Flipping the Switch
on the Cancer Gene

When it comes to cancer prevention, Drs. Dan and Lucy Chartier, of Life Quality Resources in Raleigh, will tell you that stress is one of the biggest modifiable cancer risk factors out there.

Measuring brain waves and stress
with great accuracy.

“We know that health and healthy being are funda-mental to prevention,” notes Dr. Dan Chartier. “A great deal has been written about how a person can have a genetic propensity based on their family of origin, but that doesn’t mean that the cancer gene will express unless there’s some stressor. We know that people who are resilient, who have self-regulatory skills, are less likely to develop cancer.”

Self-regulation may be a foreign concept to some, but as Dr. Chartier explains, it is a fundamental process we use—or perhaps don’t use so well—every day of our lives.  Self-regulation is, very simply, the ability of a person to maintain internal homeostasis: to encounter life’s stressors and come back to center, to calm, quickly and effectively.

Neurological Measures of Stress

So how is self-regulation measured in a therapeutically helpful and relevant way? Dr. Chartier explains: “Physiological markers can give us an objective measure of a person who is at ease and relaxed, peaceful and calm. A normal person who sits and closes their eyes for a few minutes is going to have their brain shift into a very nice alpha-dominant pattern. That’s the resting frequency of the brain. Many people that we see don’t do that, and they have lots of stress in their lives that they’re not coping with well.  These clients are not able to unplug and disconnect from life-stress, even for a brief period of time. We use Neurofeedback to train and teach this coping skill.

“Learning to control internal stress processes is also achieved through HeartMath, a simple feedback system teaching heart rate variability: how smoothly does the heart transition in speeding up and slowing down? With each breath there’s a cardio-pulmonary resonance frequency that’s been identified. This again is a marker of whether or not a person is able to relax and is resilient in their response to stress.”

Peripheral Measures of Stress

“Another simple measure of stress,” Dr. Chartier continues, “is the degree of temperature at the end of one’s fingertips. If a person’s internal body temperature is around 98 degrees Fahrenheit, then a relaxed fingertip temperature should be in the low 90s.  How often, however, do we shake hands with someone and become aware of how cold their hands are? That,” Dr. Chartier says, “is a stressed person.”

The simple skill of learning to warm one’s own hands through the use of relaxation and mindfulness can become the difference between a body that is in a state of stress—and open to the development of cancer—and one that is strong and resilient.

“The point is,” Dr. Chartier says, “there are fundamental skills that can be taught and cultivated to help a person shift into a neutral state at will, even in the face of life’s many stressful circumstances.”

Measure 3: Surface EMG

The amount of muscle tension a person holds is a third measure of stress, increasing one’s risk for disease.

“Muscle tension is expressed in microvolts of neural electrical energy being generated at the motor neurons where they contract the muscle,” Dr. Chartier explains. “We can put a set of sensors on a person’s forehead, and if they’re not in an intentionally relaxed state, as indicated by being at or below one microvolt, they are experiencing excess muscle tension.”

Often, Dr. Chartier sees clients in double-digit levels of tension, wondering, he says, why they’re experiencing headaches, feeling stress, or not sleeping very well.

“All of these psychophysiological techniques we teach are using the very real, very objective, very well-researched biomarkers that indicate that a body—and thus the mind and emotional being—can be at a very low stress point and quickly recover back to that point when normal day-to-day life stresses do occur.  This is the element of prevention that people who are concerned about cancer, or just interested in doing everything they can to prevent the development of cancer, can use: To be able to be objectively relaxed and know what that feeling is.”

The Treatment of Cancer

“We’ve also worked over the years with many persons who are dealing with cancer treatment who’ve already been diagnosed,” says Dr. Chartier. “This background that I’ve just described of being able to be resilient, calm, and relaxed also comes into play as a front-line response to a diagnosis of cancer.

“A cancer diagnosis is a traumatic event,” Dr. Chartier acknowledges. “I’ve worked with many people who are in that heightened state of fear, worry, and concern, who can use these same self-regulation skills I’ve described to help moderate that fear and to calm down.

“Interestingly,” he observes, “we also know from good research that if a person calms their autonomic nervous system using some of these feedback methods, their biomarkers of immune system functioning shows significant improvement. Furthermore, eight hours after a 20-minute training session, blood work will still show traces of that improved immune response.

“And, if you want to make your body physically healthy, including helping it fight cancer, then anything that you can do to support and modulate the immune system is going to be beneficial.”

Post-Cancer Treatment

Surviving cancer is wonderful.  Cancer survival rates are significantly better than they were a generation ago, and with the gene therapies that are developing they promise to get even better. However, as Dr. Chartier points out, being a cancer survivor is still a shock to the system, both physiologically and psycho-emotionally.

“Cancer, treatment, and survival affect everything—body, mind, and family. Our relationships shift with the cancer diagnosis. Remission carries with it the fear of relapse. Physical changes from surgeries can take a huge toll. These are other areas in which we can offer support through self-regulation, this ability to find the calm center and abide in that to the highest degree possible—no matter what the circumstances.

We often face situations in our lives where we are confronted with something we can’t control,” Dr. Chartier concludes. “What we can control, however, is our response to those situations.  And that’s where the work we do at Life Quality Resources comes into play: to support a person in prevention, in the course of treatment, and in the long-term management of their well-being post-treatment and survival.”