Hypnotherapy is a form of psychotherapy which helps a person enter into a state of calm and alert awareness, so he or she can more easily work on making personal changes. In 1995, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a consensus statement noting the scientific evidence in favor of the use of hypnosis for chronic pain, particularly pain associated with cancer.

Hypnosis helps a person be more focused and block out distractions. It brings a state of deep relaxation, making it easier to observe anxieties, fears, pain, and other difficulties from a new perspective. Hypnosis can help a person be more open to suggestion and changes at a subconscious level. When you're under hypnosis, the hypnotherapist cannot control you. It is not possible for a hypnotherapist to force you to do anything that you don't want to do. You cannot be hypnotized against your will. You must be open and receptive to the idea of hypnosis for it to work.

How Does it Work?

The way hypnosis works is not well understood. During hypnosis, changes have been noted in heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, immune response, and brain wave patterns. Some scientists suggest that neuroendocrine pathways in the brain such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis or the limbic system (emotional center of the brain) are central to connecting body functions with the mind, memory, and emotions. Hypnosis is thought to activate these pathways.

Our Scientific Understanding

There are no studies to show that hypnosis can affect outcomes after breast cancer specifically. However, hypnosis does appear to help with some of the symptoms of cancer and side effects of its treatment, such as pain, nausea, vomiting, stress, and anxiety.

What symptoms can it help with?

  • Chemotherapy-associated nausea/vomiting
  • Hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia caused by Tamoxifen or Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Bone/joint pain caused by Aromatase-Inhibitors
  • Stress/anxiety/depression
  • Fatigue

Is it Safe?

The safety of hypnotherapy has not been thoroughly studied. While hypnosis has shown benefits in cancer patients, hypnosis can occasionally trigger deep and sometimes upsetting emotions. Always check with your doctor before starting hypnotherapy, particularly if you have a history of mental illness.

For more information, or to register for a class, please call the Huntington Hospital Cancer Center at (626) 397-2524.

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