How Do you Treat Cancer with Hypnosis?

Pink Ribbon Representing battle with Cancer on pink background

Although we do not fully understand how hypnosis works, we do know that hypnosis cannot cure many diseases including cancer.  That being said, there are many ways hypnosis can be used to help a patient with cancer. 

Hypnosis and counseling can be used to help a patient cope better with the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual discomforts that can be associated with cancer.  

Dealing with Cancer Associated Discomforts 

Patients can learn to cope better with cancer associated pain or nausea by imagining themselves to be in a comfortable, peaceful, and safe environment.  They can learn to immerse themselves in such an experience by imagining what they might perceive with each of their five senses.  In this way their mind can focus on a comfortable thought rather than illness associated discomfort. 

Another pain or nausea reduction technique can incorporate imagining a control room in the brain that controls perception of discomfort.  There, the patient can imagine manipulating levers, dials, or buttons that change the quality of their discomfort.  Gifted patients can even feel as if they no longer feel their pain or nausea for hours at a time. 

Mental discomforts of cancer can include deciding which therapy course to pursue.  For example, should the therapy be conservative or radical?  Standard or experimental?   Conventional or alternative?   It can be difficult for patients to make the best choice for themselves when different experts and concerned individuals in their lives give conflicting advice.  Using hypnosis, patients can learn to center themselves, which can help them make the best choice for themselves, without being influenced unhelpfully by social pressures or expectations. 

Emotional and Spiritual Rollercoaster 

Making a cancer diagnosis and its subsequent therapy can cause an emotional roller coaster that ranges from having high hopes to feelings of severe anxiety, depression, and despair.  Learning to be calm, and to stay in the moment as part of the hypnotic experience can help patients better maintain an emotional equilibrium that can be so helpful in dealing with a difficult disease.  By learning how use hypnosis to imagine recovering fully from their cancer (if this scenario is a possibility) patients can gain emotional strength as well. 

Advanced cancer can lead to an existential crisis.  Did I cause my own illness?  Am I going to die?  What will happen to my family once I am gone?  Why do I have to suffer so?  Would it be right to end my life early if it is too uncomfortable to bear?  Patients should be encouraged to access any of their established religious or spiritual resources to deal with such questions.  With hypnosis, some patients may find answers to these questions by accessing their wiser and knowledgeable subconscious. 

Some patients enjoy imagining that they can rally their bodies defenses against their cancer.  For example, they can imagine sending troops to blow-up, hunt, clear, or kill the cancer cells.  While there is no scientific evidence that use of such imagery can affect the outcome of cancer, some patients feel better when they can take an active part in battling their disease.  Feeling relatively good and maintaining a positive attitude can help patients be more accepting and adherent to their therapies, which is associated with an improved outcome. 

Take Home Message 

Hypnosis including tapping into the power and knowledge of the subconscious can provide access to unique resources that can be used in dealing with the complex feelings and thoughts that result from a diagnosis of cancer. 

About Center Point Medicine 

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Author
Profile Photo or Ran D. Anbar, MD, FAAP Ran D. Anbar, MD Ran D. Anbar, MD, FAAP, is board certified in both pediatric pulmonology and general pediatrics, offering hypnosis and counseling services at Center Point Medicine in La Jolla, California, and Syracuse, New York. Dr. Anbar is also a fellow and approved consultant of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. Dr. Anbar is a leader in clinical hypnosis, and his 20 years of experience have allowed him to successfully treat over 5,000 children. He also served as a professor of pediatrics and medicine and the director of pediatric pulmonology at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, for 21 years.

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