The Role of Hypnosis in Supporting Cancer Patients

Cancer is a journey nobody chooses to embark on. From the moment of diagnosis to the rigors of treatment, cancer patients face a rollercoaster of emotions, physical challenges, and existential questions.

According to the National Institutes of Health, hypnosis is an efficacious tool in cancer prevention and control and has documented use since 1829. In the years since, researchers and healthcare professionals have sought various methods to ease this journey, one of which is the ancient art of hypnosis.

But how does hypnosis fit into modern-day cancer care? Let’s delve into just some of the supportive role hypnosis plays for cancer patients.

The Benefits of Hypnosis for Cancer Patients

Hypnosis has been shown to help people with all types of cancer and for many different purposes, and there’s evidence of its value and efficacy. Below are some of the uses of hypnosis for cancer.

Physical Benefits

  • Hypnosis for Cancer: Although no research studies have been conducted on using hypnosis to cure cancer, there are many anecdotal accounts of patients whose cancer went into remission after undergoing hypnotherapy.
  • Pain Management: Pain is a dreaded side effect of cancer and its treatments. Hypnosis has shown promise in alleviating this pain, offering a non-pharmacological option for patients. According to a meta-analysis in the “Journal of Pain and Symptom Management,” hypnosis has a significant positive impact on pain relief.
  • Tackling Nausea and Vomiting: Chemotherapy, a cornerstone of cancer treatment, often comes with the distressing side effects of nausea and vomiting. Hypnosis offers a complementary approach to reducing the severity of these symptoms, enhancing patient comfort.
  • Increased Appetite: Maintaining weight is important during cancer treatment. Hypnosis can support healthy food choices as well improve taste and smell of food and overcome food aversions.
  • Enhancing Surgical Recovery: Studies, like one published in the “Journal of the National Cancer Institute,” highlight the potential of hypnosis in improving post-operative outcomes, including reduced pain, nausea, emotional distress and a speedier recovery.
  • Addressing Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Survivors: Hot flashes are a common yet challenging consequence for many breast cancer survivors. Through hypnosis, there’s potential to alleviate the frequency and severity of these episodes.
  • Fatigue: Cancer-related fatigue, caused by both cancer and its treatments, is a common and challenging symptom. A study found that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and hypnosis helped breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy by preventing an increase in fatigue, unlike those receiving standard care.
  • Improving Sleep Quality: As cancer challenges the body, sleep becomes paramount. Yet, many patients struggle with sleep disturbances. Hypnosis has shown promise in improving sleep quality, ensuring patients get the rest they need.

Mental and Emotional Benefits

    • Reducing Anxiety and Stress: A cancer diagnosis can understandably lead to heightened anxiety. Hypnosis sessions can help patients find their inner calm, manage stress, and navigate their cancer journey with a more positive mindset.
    • Claustrophobia: Hypnosis can alleviate fears and anxieties from radiation therapy involving a thermoplastic mask.
    • Chemo Brain: Hypnosis has the potential to alleviate cognitive difficulties and enhance mental clarity.
    • Boosting Mood and Quality of Life: Beyond physical symptoms, cancer can take an emotional toll. Hypnosis, especially when combined with therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, can uplift mood and enhance overall life quality.
    • Sexuality: Women often grapple with issues related to body image, including concerns about scars, mastectomy, and their own desirability. Additionally, for individuals facing gynecological cancers, there may be a loss or alteration of sexual function. In both men and women, reduced libido and fatigue can also lead to a perceived loss of desirability. Hypnosis can prove to be a valuable and effective resource in addressing these challenges.
    • Accepting Help: Numerous individuals take pride in their self-reliance and may find it unfamiliar or uneasy to receive assistance, which can be particularly difficult for men. Hypnosis can aid in shifting one’s mindset to be more open to accepting help and offering support to others.
    • Relationship Challenges: Cancer affects the entire family and can create dramatic strains on relationships with family, friends, and at work. Hypnosis can help the person with cancer (and sometimes their partners) navigate these relationship challenges.
    • Life After Cancer: After cancer, people begin a new chapter in their lives, one that can bring hope and happiness, but also worries and fear that the cancer may come back. Living with the uncertainty can be terrifying. For many, cancer is financially devastating and they now have to live with the ramifications of exorbitant medical bills.
    • The New “Normal”: It takes time to adjust to life after cancer. Emotions that were stuffed for months may come flooding back and be overwhelming.  After months of support from numerous medical professionals, family and friends, survivors may feel lonely and no longer the center of attention.  For many survivors, their family and friends, there is no going back to the old normal.
    • Survivor’s guilt: Survivor’s guilt, a common and challenging emotion experienced by many cancer survivors, often stems from the sense of being fortunate to have survived when others may not have been as lucky. Hypnosis can be a valuable tool in addressing and managing this aspect of life after cancer.
    • End-of-Life: Medical hypnosis can be employed in the palliative care for people at the end of life, not only for pain and suffering relief, but also to relief psychological and spiritual suffering. Medical end-of-life decisions are often the most challenging for terminally ill people and those who care about them and hypnosis can help to create the best possible choices for them.

Making the Choice

While the benefits are promising, it’s crucial for patients to consult their medical team before incorporating hypnosis or any complementary treatments. Every individual’s journey with cancer is unique, and what works for one might not be suitable for another.

Hypnosis for cancer care is not about curing someone of cancer. It is about healing the physical, mental and emotional pain and trauma that results from cancer and cancer treatment.

Cancer care hypnosis is used to help you to use your unconscious mind to regulate your immune system. Integrated Medical Hypnosis is used in conjunction cancer treatments and to promote recovery and wellness.

The Role of Hypnosis in Cancer Care

The evidence suggests that hypnosis may help treat symptoms of nausea and vomiting in breast cancer patients, manage pain in a variety of contexts, and also reduce levels of anxiety and overall distress around surgical and medical procedures, both in children and adults. Emerging research shows promise for treating hot flashes in women with breast cancer.

Read: The Role of Hypnosis in Cancer Care

Linda E Carlson


Can Hypnosis Help People with Cancer?

Scientists do not know if hypnosis might affect cancer cells, your immune system, or the disease of cancer in any way. There is insufficient evidence at this time. Hypnosis is not a medical treatment for cancer, but there may be an important role for hypnosis in managing cancer. Hypnosis has been effective in helping patients reduce pain, stress, and depression, and calm fears and anxiety.

Read: Can Hypnosis Help People with Cancer?

Stanford Medicine

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