ABC News Medical Unit
Hypnosis Reduces Breast Surgery Side Effects
It's something that's usually associated with stage performances and helping smokers quit, but new research suggests hypnosis may soon be an important tool in helping patients endure common side effects of breast cancer surgery.
Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York showed that a 15-minute hypnosis session reduced side effects including pain, nausea and emotional distress in patients undergoing breast cancer operations.
The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
"If this were a drug, it would be very successful," said lead study author Guy Montgomery, director of the Integrative Behavioral Medicine Program at Mount. Sinai School of Medicine.
Montgomery added that hypnosis carries the added benefit of having no side effects — a quality that makes it an attractive alternative to many drugs used for similar purposes.
Two hundred women who were about to undergo surgeries like a breast biopsy or removal of a suspicious breast lump participated in the study. About half of the women received a 15-minute hypnosis session shortly before their operations. The other women in the study had a consultation with a psychologist before surgery.
The hypnosis session included relaxation exercises that encouraged the women to think of pleasant thoughts, such as a beach on warm day. The women who did not undergo hypnosis talked to a psychologist, who listened and offered supportive comments only.
After their surgeries, the women who had hypnosis experienced less pain, nausea, fatigue, discomfort and emotional upset than their counterparts — and these differences were substantial, the study's authors reported.
Not only did hypnosis reduce the side effects from surgery, but it also did this while reducing the amount of anesthesia used during the surgery. Additionally, the researchers showed that hypnosis decreased the amount of time spent in the operating room by almost 11 minutes, leading to an overall cost savings of about $770 per patient.
Not Just for Breast Cancer Surgery
In addition to being effective, hypnosis may also prove to be a versatile tool. The benefits of hypnosis have been shown in previous research to extend to other procedures as well, including gynecological surgery and coronary artery bypass.
Montgomery said he is hopeful that doctors continue to expand the use of hypnosis in other medical applications.
"This could become part of standard care," he said. However, he added, "it's not a panacea for everything, but rather a tool in the toolbox that we can use to address specific problems."
Hypnosis For Better Health