Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Imagery

Imagery is a form of distraction. It involves mental exercises designed to stimulate the mind to influence the health and well-being of the body. It uses visualization techniques to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression, as well as manage pain, lower blood pressure and ease some of the side effects of chemotherapy.

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

Can imagery help people with cancer?

There is no scientific evidence demonstrating that imagery affects cancerous cells. Rather, it is a relaxation technique similar to meditation that has other physical and psychological effects on the body. In some cases, imagery has been found to alleviate nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, relieve stress, enhance the immune system, facilitate weight gain, combat depression and reduce pain.

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How does imagery work?

There are many different imagery techniques. One popular method is called palming, which involves placing the palms of your hands over your eyes and first imagining a color you associate with anxiety or stress (such as red), then imagining a color you associate with relaxation or calmness (such as blue). Visualizing a calming color may make you feel relaxed, which may, in turn, improve your health and sense of well-being.

Another common imagery technique is known as guided imagery. Guided imagery involves visualizing a specific image or goal to be achieved and then imagining yourself achieving that goal. Athletes often use this technique to improve their performance.

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Are there any possible problems or complications associated with imagery?

Imagery techniques, as an addition to your cancer treatment plan, have 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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