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
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
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.