There’s cause for optimism about new cancer treatments, but can science do anything about the helpless feeling patients get the moment a doctor says, “I’d like to run some more tests”?
Yes, actually. Researchers at Harvard paired newly diagnosed cancer patients with a hypnotherapist and found reductions in anxiety and catastrophic thinking. The patient is encouraged to think of himself or herself as a powerful warrior who will prevail over the illness, giving them a sense of control over the process of choosing and initiating a treatment. As treatment progresses, hypnosis can be used to mentally rehearse positive outcomes and instill confidence in recovery. It can also be used to dull pain after procedures, increase the rate of healing, and slow blood loss during surgery. Hypnotic suggestions can even reduce fatigue by suggesting that fatigue is a sign of healing, allowing the patient to rest more deeply.
By providing a sense of calm and control during a time when patients often feel adrift, hypnosis is a valuable tool in traversing the difficult path of cancer diagnosis and recovery.
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