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Hypnosis and Cancer

Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness marked by deep relaxation, heightened concentration, and focused attention. When in this trance-like state of mind, individuals are more open to suggestion.

Because of its ability to increase responsiveness, hypnosis is often used to affect change in behaviors and habits thought to contribute to certain health issues (such as pain, anxiety, and addiction).

Hypnotherapy: Hypnosis As Treatment

Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis in the treatment of health conditions.

The notion that hypnotherapists are in control of the person being hypnotized is false. In fact, one of the main goals of hypnotherapy is to help the patient gain more control over his or her behavior, emotions, and bodily functions.

Hypnosis and Cancer

While there’s a lack of scientific evidence to support the claim that hypnosis can help fight cancer itself, hypnotherapy has been shown to offer a number of benefits to cancer patients and cancer survivors. Here’s a look at some key findings:

1) Hypnosis and Cancer Surgery

In a 2007 study of 200 women undergoing surgery for breast cancer, scientists found that the use of hypnosis prior to surgery reduced the amount of anesthesia administered during the operation, the level of pain reported afterward, and the time and cost of the procedure. Compared to those who spoke with a psychologist before their surgery, those who underwent 15 minutes of hypnosis also reported less nausea, fatigue, and emotional upset after surgery.

2) Hypnosis and Chemotherapy

A research review published in 2007 shows that hypnosis may significantly reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The review included six randomized controlled trials, five of which involved pediatric cancer patients.

3) Hypnosis and Breast Cancer Survivors

Hypnosis may help cool hot flashes in breast cancer survivors, according to a 2008 study of 60 women with a history of primary history of breast cancer. Results of the five-week study showed that participants who received hypnosis (including weekly 50-minute sessions, plus instructions for at-home self-hypnosis) had a 68% reduction in hot flash frequency/severity and experienced an average of 4.39 fewer hot flashes per day. They also showed significant improvements in anxiety, depression, and sleep.

A problem for many women during menopause, hot flashes are also a common side effect of breast cancer treatment.

Using Hypnosis in Cancer Treatment

Although hypnosis is generally considered safe when practiced under the care of a professionally trained hypnotherapist, some individuals may experience emotional distress.

The American Cancer Society cautions that relying on hypnosis alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.


The American Cancer Society. “Hypnosis” [link: November 2008.

Elkins G, Marcus J, Stearns V, Perfect M, Rajab MH, Ruud C, Palamara L, Keith T. “Randomized trial of a hypnosis intervention for treatment of hot flashes among breast cancer survivors.” J Clin Oncol. 2008 1;26(31):5022-6.

Montgomery GH, Bovbjerg DH, Schnur JB, David D, Goldfarb A, Weltz CR, Schechter C, Graff-Zivin J, Tatrow K, Price DD, Silverstein JH. “A randomized clinical trial of a brief hypnosis intervention to control side effects in breast surgery patients.” J Natl Cancer Inst. 2007 5;99(17):1304-12.

Richardson J, Smith JE, McCall G, Richardson A, Pilkington K, Kirsch I. “Hypnosis for nausea and vomiting in cancer chemotherapy: a systematic review of the research evidence.” Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2007 16(5):402-12.


February 21, 2010 - Posted by | 1

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