Self hypnosis can be used for decreasing cancer-related symptoms. I’ve had the pleasure over the past few months to share the benefits of mindfulness based hypnosis at several Gilda’s Club meetings in Seattle and throughout Puget Sound in the oncology departments of MultiCare Medical Centers.
Participants living with cancer who have attended these meetings learn mindfulness based stress reduction techniques, they learn about how hypnosis can help in the recovery from cancer and they have the opportunity to experience hypnosis. Days and weeks after these sessions participants call and email me for additional support.
If you live too far from Seattle or are unable to travel, you can meet with me online through the Hypnosis Health Info Virtual Office.
Decreasing cancer-related symptoms with self-hypnosis is this weeks featured article found in the Hypnosis Health Info Article Library.
Decreasing cancer-related symptoms
by Dr. Mark Jensen, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, July 28, 2014: People with cancer—both patients and survivors—often experience significant problems with pain, fatigue and sleep associated both with the cancer diagnosis and side effects of the treatments.
The problem is that the medical treatments for these three problems often have significant side effects. For example, people can build a tolerance to powerful analgesics used for pain. These medicines can cause also cause significant constipation and affect one’s ability to think clearly. So people will often try the medications, but find the side effects are so annoying that they’d rather have the symptom than the side effects.
The same holds true for sleep medications. Sleep aids can be helpful in the short term, but some patients have concerns about their long-term use.
So, the available treatments for these symptoms are often inadequate. Another approach is to learn self-management skills; things you can do yourself to improve problems with pain, fatigue and sleep.
In the last two decades, a great deal of research has studied self-hypnosis training as a method for pain control. The result of this research is clear—self-hypnosis is effective. People can learn to alter activity in their brains through self-hypnosis, so that they experience less pain. It’s not magic or voodoo. It’s simply learning to shift brain states so the brain processes less pain information. As a result, you hurt less. Once people learn how to use it, they often report that just a minute or two of self-hypnosis results in hours of significant pain relief. Over time, many people report that their background or usual pain intensity has dropped significantly as well. In our clinical trials of self-hypnosis, patients reported to us that not only did they feel less pain, they felt more energy and slept better.
Since pain, fatigue and sleep problems are common in individuals who have a history of cancer, about a year ago we did a pilot study in women, both those in active cancer treatment and survivors. As we found when teaching self-hypnosis to people with other types of pain problems, the women in the cancer study with significant pain problems reported significant decreases in their pain with self-hypnosis. They were able to use this skill to feel less pain on a daily basis.
We also found that the women who presented with sleep problems reported improvements in their sleep quality. Indeed, learning to calm the mind and get control over the mind enabled people to stop the so-called “gerbil brain” at night. When they did that, they were able to get to sleep easier and they got better quality sleep. Of course, when you sleep better, you also feel less pain, so maybe part of the reason people felt less pain was they slept better or vice versa. It doesn’t really matter, because it all worked!
We also found there were significant improvements in fatigue; that is, people felt more energy. However, in our pilot study, the fatigue returned after about three months. But the improvements in pain and in sleep quality maintained. It raises the possibility that the effects on fatigue may require more treatment than we offered.
I’ve been teaching self hypnosis to people who are living with cancer since 1997. You can meet with me at Seattle Hypnosis with Roger Moore, Bainbridge Hypnosis with Roger Moore, at Peninsula Cancer Center in Poulsbo and online in the Hypnosis Health Info Virtual Office.
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