Hypnosis and Cancer: World Cancer Day
This week marks World Cancer Day, a day set up to raise awareness, improve education and to encourage action in the challenge against cancer. It’s about saving preventable and premature deaths and improving access to the best cancer treatment.
Cancer is the dreaded word for anyone to hear. I think we all know people who have battled it. I lost my Dad to cancer several years ago and have known many others who have faced cancer (which is why I’ve raised money to support the awesome work of MacMillan cancer support in the past).
At every stage of the journey there can be mental distress, anxiety worry and fear. There can also be the impacts of treatment on your mental and physical well-being. And whilst hypnotherapy and hypnosis can’t cure cancer (in fact it is illegal for anyone to claim they can), there are many ways that it can help with the things that come with it, from cancer treatments or symptoms, such as anxiety, nausea, distress and so on.
So, with it being World Cancer Day it seems appropriate to have a quick look at some of the evidence for the use of hypnosis with cancer patients.
Hypnosis To Help Cancer Patients
Perhaps our starting point should be a very recent paper that studied the effectiveness of complementary therapies among cancer patients.
With regard to hypnosis, this review on the effectiveness of complementary therapies in cancer patients (Guerra-Martín, Tejedor-Bueno, and Correa-Casado, 2021) found that it presented significant results in terms of effectiveness as a solution to resolve symptoms derived from some treatments or from the disease itself. Hypnosis lead to an improvement in fatigue, sleep disturbance and pain.
Progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery therapy, which can be easily incorporated with hypnosis, was found to improve fatigue and pain in cancer patients.
The review drew upon research into the efficacy of cognitive-behavioural therapy plus hypnosis (CBTH) to control fatigue in patients with breast cancer undergoing radiotherapy. Montgomery et al (Randomized controlled trial of a cognitive-behavioral therapy plus hypnosis intervention to control fatigue in patients undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer, 2014) found that their results supported CBTH as “an evidence-based intervention to control fatigue in patients undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer. CBTH is noninvasive, has no adverse effects, and its beneficial effects persist long after the last intervention session.”
Mendoza et al (Randomized controlled trial of the Valencia model of waking hypnosis plus CBT for pain, fatigue, and sleep management in patients with cancer and cancer survivors, 2017) used waking hypnosis (eyes open) with CBT in the management of symptoms both during and after cancer treatment. The findings demonstrated clinically significant greater improvements in pain, fatigue and sleep problems. The same effects were found in assessing depression, pain catastrophizing, cancer treatment distress, and pain interference.
Elyasi et al (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Hypnosis Intervention on Anxiety, Depression, and Quality of Life in Patients with Breast Cancer Undergoing Chemotherapy: A Clinical Trial. 2020), found hypnosis to be effective on reducing certain problems of breast cancer patients, such as sleeping disorders and the emotional impacts of cancer.
And Johnson et al (Anxiety reduction among breast-cancer survivors receiving hypnotic relaxation therapy for hot flashes. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 2016) found hypnotic relaxation therapy led to significant reductions in anxiety among breast-cancer survivors.
“The present analysis provides data to support that hypnotic relaxation therapy (HRT) may be useful in reducing self-reported anxiety among breast-cancer survivors…Hypnosis is usually reported as a pleasant experience, has few (if any) known side effects and does not interact with medications. Additionally, once a patient becomes familiar with hypnosis, it may be generalized to help with other distressing symptoms.”
Further support for the beneficial use of hypnosis with breast cancer patients comes from Cramer et al (Hypnosis in breast cancer care: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials, 2015) who found “promising evidence for the effectiveness of hypnosis in breast cancer care. While more research is needed to underpin these results, hypnosis can be considered as an ancillary intervention in the management of breast cancer–related symptoms.”
With regard to children with cancer, Richardson, Smith, McCall and Pilkington (Hypnosis for procedure-related pain and distress in pediatric cancer patients: a systematic review of effectiveness and methodology related to hypnosis interventions, 2006) found statistically significant reductions in pain and anxiety/distress. “This suggests that hypnosis has potential as a clinically-valuable intervention that could contribute to the management of procedure-related pain and distress in pediatric cancer patients.”
There is more research but I think that’s enough for now! In this article I just wanted to pull out some of the evidence and research for the effectiveness and beneficial use of hypnosis to help with symptoms. Hypnosis can help with combating fatigue, pain and sleep problems, as well as issues such as anxiety and distress that often go hand in hand with cancer.
To your health and happiness,
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Cramer, H., Lauche, R., Paul, A., Langhorst, J., Kuemmel, S. and Dobos, G.J., 2015. Hypnosis in breast cancer care: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Integrative cancer therapies, 14(1), pp.5-15.
Elyasi, F., Taghizadeh, F., Zarghami, M., Moosazadeh, M., Abdollahi Chirani, S. and Babakhanian, M., 2020. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Hypnosis Intervention on Anxiety, Depression, and Quality of Life in Patients with Breast Cancer Undergoing Chemotherapy: A Clinical Trial. Middle East Journal of Cancer.
Guerra-Martín, M.D., Tejedor-Bueno, M.S. and Correa-Casado, M., 2021. Effectiveness of Complementary Therapies in Cancer Patients: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(3), p.1017.
Johnson, A.J., Marcus, J., Hickman, K., Barton, D. and Elkins, G., 2016. Anxiety reduction among breast-cancer survivors receiving hypnotic relaxation therapy for hot flashes. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 64(4), pp.377-390.
Mendoza, M.E., Capafons, A., Gralow, J.R., Syrjala, K.L., Suárez‐Rodríguez, J.M., Fann, J.R. and Jensen, M.P., 2017. Randomized controlled trial of the Valencia model of waking hypnosis plus CBT for pain, fatigue, and sleep management in patients with cancer and cancer survivors. Psycho‐oncology, 26(11), pp.1832-1838.
Montgomery, G.H., David, D., Kangas, M., Green, S., Sucala, M., Bovbjerg, D.H., Hallquist, M.N. and Schnur, J.B., 2014. Randomized controlled trial of a cognitive-behavioral therapy plus hypnosis intervention to control fatigue in patients undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 32(6), p.557.
Richardson, J., Smith, J.E., McCall, G. and Pilkington, K., 2006. Hypnosis for procedure-related pain and distress in pediatric cancer patients: a systematic review of effectiveness and methodology related to hypnosis interventions. Journal of pain and symptom management, 31(1), pp.70-84.