Disclaimer: Consult with a doctor before deciding on a treatment plan for cancer or any other disease.

Hypnotherapy is used in a variety of health situations to help patients cope with pain. Though hypnotherapy has not been studied extensively in terms of its ability to treat cancer, there are many anecdotal accounts of patients whose cancer went into remission following hypnotherapy sessions. Some hospitals offer hypnotherapy to patients to accomplish a variety of healing goals [1].

Detailed Information

Hypnotherapy is the use of focused, relaxed attention to therapeutically guide patients into healing trance states. The patient remains fully alert, but physically relaxed. The mind becomes curious and open to suggestion. While hypnotherapy is widely used in Europe and trance states are part of healing rituals throughout the world in nearly all cultures, Americans have not been educated about the virtues of this healing science.


Hypnotherapy is a mind-body intervention that has become popular because of its low-risk and ease of integration into a variety of cancer protocols. Research has shown that cancer patients can find relief from pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbance through the use of clinical hypnosis [3].


Most healthy people experience trance states several times during the course of a normal day without realizing it. These trance states are characterized by certain brain waves. Patients experience hypnotic states as calm and inward-focused states of mind. Trained hypnotherapists can help patients achieve a calm state of mind in order to reduce pain, develop insight, conquer fear, or achieve other goals. It is even possible for hypnotherapists to train patients on how to hypnotize themselves, as needed, to reduce pain or experience less fear [1].


Safety and Effectiveness

Research has demonstrated that hypnotherapy can be effective at:


  • Decreasing the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments
  • Reducing pain
  • Reducing stress
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Improving overall mood and mental state—providing patients with a sense of control and acceptance
  • Improving the patient’s post-surgical response in terms of the amount of medication required to manage pain, diminishing fatigue, and hastening the healing process from surgery [1]


Studies on pain control have demonstrated that 75% of end-stage cancer patients who used hypnotherapy experienced less pain compared to control groups [4]. Additionally, patients who used hypnotherapy experienced less anxiety, diminished pain, and less blood loss during surgery. Post-operatively, these patients also experienced less nausea and vomiting in comparison with the control group [1].

Hypnotherapy is often used to boost the immune system and spur detoxification of the body to help patients fight cancer. Often, cancer patients who use hypnotherapy experience improved health outcomes as well as financial savings in relation to their cancer care. One well-known study examined the effects of clinical hypnosis on female patients undergoing biopsy. The study demonstrated that patients experienced less anxiety and pain during the procedure and they also experienced less pain and irritation after the biopsy [1][5].


How Hypnotherapy Is Administered to Cancer Patients

Newly diagnosed cancer patients may choose to see a hypnotherapist to help them access other states of consciousness that are more adept at making difficult decisions. Cancer patients who are in midst of treatment may choose to see a hypnotherapist to alleviate stress and achieve trance states that will help their minds and bodies glean the most value from the treatment protocol. Other cancer patients who are nearing death may opt to see a hypnotherapist to make peace with their situation, find acceptance, and experience relief from fear.


Hypnotherapy is administered privately, typically over the course of 1 to 2 hours, though there are some therapeutic situations where patients remain hypnotized for up to 4 hours. The hypnotherapist may use Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), music or sound, or other techniques to guide the patient into trance. Patients often sit in a reclining chair while the hypnotherapist guides the patient through the remainder of their session.


Possible Negative Effects

There are no known side effects and no reported negative consequences to the use of hypnotherapy [1].


Other Important Information

Patients who are seeking hypnotherapy to relieve pain should seek out a therapist who has experience working with pain control.


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[1] Marcus, T. (2017). Hypnosis and Its Use in Cancer Treatment. Retrieved June 6, 2018 from https://www.oncologynurseadvisor.com/general-oncology/uses-of-hypnosis-to-treat-cancer-patients/article/631055/


[2] Elkins, G., Fisher, W., Sliwinsky, J. (2012). Clinical hypnosis for the palliative care of cancer patients. Retrieved June 6, 2018 from http://www.cancernetwork.com/oncology-nursing/clinical-hypnosis-palliative-care-cancer-patients


[3] Kwekkeboom, K., Cherwin, C., Lee, J. W., Wanta, B. (2010). Mind-body treatments for the pain-fatigue sleep disturbance cluster in persons with cancer. Retrieved June 6, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19900778

[4] Simonton, C. O., Creighton, J., Simonton, S. M. (1992). Getting Well Again: The Bestselling Classic About the Simonton’s Revolutionary Lifesaving Self-Awareness Techniques. Bantam.


[5] Montgomery, G. H., Schnur, J. B., Kravits, K. (2013). Hypnosis for Cancer Care: Over 200 Years Young. Retrieved June 6, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3755455/