Hypnosis? Help with cancer? Some studies show it’s possible, and more are on the way.
We’re not talking about a cure, of course, but a method to help heal the side effects of treatment. Researchers in the UK, for instance, reported positive results when hypnosis was used for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, particularly on children, and suggested further research in adults.
Another study out of New York assigned over 200 patients a brief hypnosis intervention before they went through breast cancer surgery. Those who went through the hypnosis experienced less pain, nausea, and fatigue after the surgery. Hypnosis even seemed to help them feel less emotional upset. “Overall,” researchers reported, “the present data support the use of hypnosis with breast cancer surgery patients.”
More evidence: a 2001 study found that hypnotic-like methods, involving relaxation, suggestion, and distracting imagery, held the greatest promise of all behavioral interventions for pain management. And an earlier study found that patients who received hypnosis reported less pain and pain-related anxiety than did control patients.
It’s kind of hard to describe what hypnosis is, but most definitions define it as a mental state, set of attitudes, or beliefs induced by hypnosis, a series of preliminary instructions and suggestions. Another way to think about it is that it puts the person into a neutral state of concentration. Typically it follows a set of stages, from lethargy and relaxation to “catalepsy,” where muscles and posture are fixed and rigid. The final stage is known as somnambulism, a sort of “sleepwalking” or trance-like stage where a person is open to suggestion.
Have you ever been driving somewhere, and then you spaced out so much, when you arrived at your destination, you didn’t remember how you got there? That’s kind of like what hypnosis is. Your unconscious mind takes over, while your conscious mind skips out. Hypnosis helps access such a trance state, and then gives the unconscious mind suggestions that can help you feel better in your waking state.
If you’d like to try hypnosis as part of your cancer treatment, first decide if you want to work with a psychiatrist or someone who exclusively performs hypnotism as a healing method. Psychiatrists use hypnosis sometimes to treat people, but certified hypnotists typically have more in-depth training. When you find someone, ask them the following questions:
- Are you a certified hypnotist and by whom? (The National Guild of Hypnotherapists is the oldest and largest non-profit certifying organization.)
- How many hours of training do you have? (Look for over 100.)
- Have you worked with cancer patients? How long? What types of cancer?
- Do you have experience in addressing (your concern)?
- May I call other cancer patients you have worked with?
Finally, ask yourself if you’re comfortable with the person, as that is the most important thing.
Have you tried hypnosis for cancer treatment side effects? Please share your experience with us.
Photo courtesy Regal Hypnosis School, Atlanta GA via Flickr.com.