One of the most studied fields of hypnotherapy relates to the medical problems of senior citizens. We will focus this section on cancer, but many of the same principles apply to other serious diseases and surgical interventions, as well.
Just hearing the “C Word” brings waves of fear and uncertainty to diagnosed individuals and their loved ones. Some early diagnoses show immediately the stage and location of the cancer, enabling doctors to begin a clear course of treatment. In other cases, a diagnosis may only lead to additional testing, a lump to x-rays to biopsies to MRIs, with each step piling on emotional stressors. Treatments involve various combinations of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. Each of these produce its own sets of physical challenges, such as pain, nausea, sleep issues, and other bodily reactions.
Documented evidence of the effectiveness of pain control through clinical hypnosis shows the importance of this treatment for those faced with such a cruel diagnosis. Here are just a few:
- One study of breast cancer sufferers noted a schedule of treatment which included hypnotherapy demonstrated significantly lower pain and less increase in pain over extended periods.
- A bone cancer study concluded that those benefitting from the use of hypnosis had a significant overall decrease in pain.
- Hypnotherapy was studied in a group of women with breast cancer who were having breast biopsies or lumpectomies. Against the findings of a control group that was offered empathetic encouragement, the hypnosis group showed significant decreases in the intensity of pain and in reduction in nausea, fatigue, and overall discomfort. Another group of women having large core breast biopsies using hypnosis reported reduced pain and anxiety, as well.
- The use of hypnosis with children undergoing cancer has also shown some effectiveness in helping with nausea and vomiting, debilitating problems particularly for children undergoing chemotherapy. With hypnosis, researchers found less anticipatory nausea and vomiting, and fewer overall issues with both nausea and vomiting throughout the chemotherapy. The researchers concluded that the changes brought through hypnosis affected both the thinking and the emotions of the patients. Other tests suggested that hypnosis also helped with nausea after surgery.
- Up to ninety percent of cancer patients report increased fatigue during chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Studies have shown that hypnosis intervention keeps fatigue from increasing during these treatments. Hot flashes in breast cancer survivors saw a seventy percent reduction in occurrences following sessions of hypnotherapy that included training in self-hypnosis.
- Sleep disorders also impact cancer patients, exacerbating their recovery. These patients report three times the insomnia as the general population. In one study, a set of five hypnotherapy sessions led to reports of significant improvements in sleep quality.
Before leaving the topic of cancer, let us look at how hypnotherapy works to help cancer sufferers, and what it can mean to those who have the worst of it, the terminal patient. Hypnosis can relieve pain and assist with related treatment issues, as we have seen with the previous studies. It accomplishes this feat in several ways. First, hypnosis with therapy can increase relaxation. Relaxation takes the edge off the pain, allows the patient to sleep better, and reduces the stress of the treatments, all which work to reduce anxiety and depression. Second, hypnosis may help to distract or dissociate the patient from the pain. Third, episodes of pain can seem to pass more quickly in the trance state, which serves to compress time. Fourth, the reduction in discomfort simply improves the entire treatment process as the battle with cancer goes on.
For those who are terminal, these benefits derived from hypnotherapy prove uniquely beneficial. Cancer is a most painful end of life experience. Currently, a person suffering in the final stages of cancer is increasingly chemically sedated for the pain. This sedation ultimately results in some level of dazed confusion; they may be with us bodily, but not mentally. Using hypnotherapy may allow a patient to remain alert and to enjoy his or her family right up until the end. Hypnotherapy allows a person’s own mind to set aside the pain.