Cancer patients pay less for surgeries, feel better when hypnotized



Bergh - hypnotic seance

Image: Hypnotic Seance, Richard Bergh (1887). Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Looks like it’s time to break out the dangling watch — a new article in the The Journal of the National Cancer Institute reports this week that women who participated in a brief hypnosis session prior to breast cancer surgery experienced fewer reported side effects such as pain, nausea, and fatigue. Also intriguing was that the surgical costs per patient were on average $772 less than for patients who did not undergo hypnosis prior to surgery.For certain types of cancers where surgery is the first line of defense like breast cancer or head and neck cancer, this mix of eastern and western medicine has the potential to make a wide impact.

As reported at the American Cancer Society website:

“Such findings argue strongly for making hypnosis part of standard care for breast cancer patients,” says lead study author Guy H. Montgomery, PhD, associate professor of Oncological Sciences at Mount Sinai.

“Breast cancer patients are going through a lot,” he explains.

“It’s a distressing and difficult period to get through. They’re worried about themselves, they’re worried about their families. So if there’s something we can do to make them feel better …we should translate this from a research protocol to actually doing something for breast cancer patients every day.”

Two hundred women participated in the study, each undergoing lupecteomy or excisional breast biopsy. Randomly assigned patients received either a fifteen-minute session of true hypnosis or a control intervention within an hour of their procedure.

Hypnosis, as practiced by the health care professionals within this scope of this study, included a series of guided imagery, visualization and breathing techniques. Montgomery hopes that the study will lead to more studies exploring the feasibility of medical staff conducting hypnosis sessions in person or whether instructional CDs may even help patients benefit from the effects.

Obviously, we’ve all practiced mild forms of self-hypnosis before, whether we take a few deep breaths before plummeting headlong into a task or we closing our eyes and picture a happy outcome to motivate ourself to finish. I think that extending these tips to surgeries look like a harmless but really promising way to reap on some major benefits. I’d be interested to see whether the benefits of hypnosis extend themselves to other non-cancer related surgeries.

Would you consider undergoing hypnosis prior to a procedure? Have you had it one yourself? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

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