Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Hypnosis

What is hypnosis?
Can hypnosis help people with cancer?
How does hypnosis work?
Are there any possible problems or complications associated with hypnosis?

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a state of consciousness resembling sleep; however, a person who is hypnotized can still concentrate on memories, sensations or other things. Hypnosis is an altered, relaxed state of mind, often used to help learn to control bad habits, manage pain and reduce stress.

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Can hypnosis help people with cancer?

Scientists do not know if hypnosis might affect cancer cells, your immune system or the disease of cancer in any way. There is insufficient evidence at this time. Hypnosis is not a medical treatment for cancer, but there may be an important role for hypnosis in managing cancer. Hypnosis has been effective in helping patients reduce pain, stress and depression, and calm fears and anxiety.

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How does hypnosis work?

Hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation that is believed to alter brain wave patterns. During hypnosis you may be given suggestions that could help to change your perception of pain and strengthen your coping abilities. Some reports provide strong evidence that hypnosis can reduce chronic cancer pain.

Nine out of 10 people can be hypnotized. However, hypnotism will not work if you do not want to be hypnotized or do not want to feel out of control. Hypnotism requires trust and imagination.

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Are there any possible problems or complications associated with hypnosis?

It is not known exactly how hypnosis works but it is not believed to have harmful side effects. The success of the treatment depends partly on the skill of the practitioner and partly on the patient’s willingness to undergo hypnosis. Hypnotherapy, as an addition to your cancer treatment plan, has the potential to be pleasant and productive, but should not replace the care and treatment provided by your cancer care team. Always consult your physician for more information.

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