Hypnosis may help reduce fear, anxiety in children undergoing treatment for cancer

Hypnosis could help to reduce the fear of medical procedures in children and young people with cancer.

New research led by the University of Exeter found promising evidence that hypnosis can reduce the fear and worry associated with injections and other needle procedures, such as extracting bone marrow.

Previous research has shown that these procedures often provoke more anxiety in children and young people than the cancer itself. Up to half of children with cancer experience clinically significant emotional distress. This can cause additional anguish for the child and for their families and have a long-lasting impact on mental health.

The Exeter team worked with Devon Integrated Children's Service to analyze all the available evidence on ways to reduce this anxiety without using drugs. The study is published in Psycho-Oncolgy and was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (PenCLAHRC).

Tamsin Ford, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Exeter Medical School, said: "Getting a cancer diagnosis as a child is clearly extremely distressing for both the young person and their family. We must do all we can do to improve their mental health during this highly emotional time. Hypnosis is inexpensive to deliver, and our research found promise that it could help to reduce the fear and anxiety of multiple needle procedures. We now need high quality trials to demonstrate whether hypnosis should be adopted in clinics ."

The team also looked at evidence around listening to music, virtual reality and cognitive behavioral therapy, however the research was contradictory.

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