Hypnosis session before breast cancer surgery aids recovery

Researchers say women who undergo surgery for breast cancer may be helped in the recovery process if they have a hypnosis session beforehand.

It seems that just one session of hypnosis is enough to lessen the pain experienced and eases the recovery from breast cancer surgery.

The researchers at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center conducted a study of 200 women about to undergo breast cancer surgery; the surgery was either for a breast biopsy or a lumpectomy (surgery to remove a breast tumor while saving as much of the breast as possible).

The researchers randomly divided the women into two groups - one group of women were given a 15-minute hypnosis session within an hour of their surgery - the other group received a 15 minute talk with a psychologist who was supportive but did not use hypnosis, imagery, or relaxation.

The hypnosis sessions were carried out by psychologists trained to use hypnosis in a medical setting and included guided relaxation, pleasant visual imagery, and soothing techniques.

The hypnosis sessions also included instruction on how the women could perform hypnosis on themselves in the future.

The researchers at the center's oncology sciences department, tracked the women during and after their surgery and found the women in the hypnosis group required less anesthesia medication than women who did not receive hypnosis.

The researchers also found that the hypnosis group reported less intense pain and less nausea, fatigue, discomfort and emotional upset after the surgery than those who were not hypnotised.

Dr. Guy Montgomery says the data supports the use of hypnosis with breast cancer surgery patients along with the use of anesthesia and painkillers and demonstrates that hypnosis substantially reduces pain and anxiety during surgical procedures.

Dr. Montgomery also says the hypnosis cut down on the hospital's surgical costs; breast cancer surgery as a rule costs $8,561 per patient, but the cost dropped by about $772 for the hypnotized patients, mainly due to shorter surgery time.

Hypnosis is often associated in people's minds with a loss of control, but Montgomery says even patients who are skeptical or fearful of hypnosis can benefit if they are properly counseled.

Many doctors consider hypnosis to be a powerful tool that patients can use to take charge of their own health.

The new research suggests that hypnosis is possibly an important tool in helping patients endure the common side effects both physical and emotional of breast cancer surgery.

Previous research has also shown the benefits of hypnosis in other procedures, including gynecological surgery and coronary artery bypass.

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