Care care is a national priority. According to the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) someone in Ireland gets a cancer diagnosis every three minutes. The incidence of cancer is increasing and by 2020, 1 in 2 of us will get a cancer diagnosis in our lifetime. These are horrendous statistics and in spite of the fact that cancer treatments are improving all the time, many of us are going to suffer. Up until recently the treatment of cancer and chronic illness has been a showpiece of scientific and medical advancement. However, recent years has seen a move towards treating the whole patient and attending to not only physical but also emotional, psychological and social needs. Cancer care needs to encompass all of the patients needs.
Now it is very important that you understand that hypnosis is NOT a cure for cancer or any other chronic illness. However increasing evidence from scientific and medical research points to the efficacy of hypnosis alongside conventional treatment. In fact hypnosis has been recognised as a “legitimate therapeutic tool” by the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association since the 1950s.
Hypnosis can be a powerful approach in the overall delivery of cancer care. It can be used to address the physical, mental and emotional issues faced by a cancer sufferer. First, it is useful as a means of dealing with the symptoms of cancer and chronic illness: pain, fatigue, sadness, irritability, anger, and insomnia. Secondly, hypnosis is useful in the management of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. This is very important because side effects are often so uncomfortable that they may cause the patient to stop treatment altogether. Thirdly, cancer patients and those struggling with chronic illness are faced with a major psychological adjustment. They have to face major questions about the future and their very existence. Hypnosis has a place in helping with this difficult predicament.
Dr David Spiegel of the Stanford University School of Medicine in California says that;
“It has taken us a century and a half to rediscover the fact that the mind has something to do with pain and can be a powerful tool in controlling it. It is now abundantly clear that we can retrain the brain to reduce pain.”
For many paitients pain control is at the very heart of effective cancer care. A meta-analysis (a study of studies) in 2000 of 18 published studies by psychologists Guy Montgomery, PhD, Katherine DuHamel, PhD, and William Redd, PhD, showed that 75% of clinical and experimental participants with different types of pain obtained substantial pain relief from hypnotic techniques. The great news is that these hypnotic approaches are easily applied by an experienced hypnotherapist.Furthermore a patient can be taught to use self hypnosis as a means to manage chronic pain and discomfort over the long term.
For some unfortunate patients, Hypnosis for pain control can be the only solution available to a distressing condition. I have had clients who were unable to take pain killers or medication because of another underlying medical condition. In this situation hypnosis may be the only thing that makes life bearable and allow the patient to enjoy some level of comfort and normality.
Nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy remains a common problem for many chemotherapy patients despite the advances in medication and management techniques. Some cancer patients do not respond to anti-emetic drugs used to control nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. If the sickness is prolonged it is likely that the patient will be admitted to hospital. Although hospitalisation is a serious consequence, there is a more serious associated issue. Research suggests that those who experience difficulties associated with nausea and vomiting in relation to chemotherapy may have difficulty sustaining their programme of treatment (Redd, Montgomery & DuHamel, 2001).
Research shows that hypnotherapy can help to control nausea and vomiting among cancer patients (Viviani et al., 2000; Aapro, Molassiotis & Olver, 2005). In my experience this is one of the most satisfying uses for hypnotherapy. Not only can we help the patient to feel better but we can also encourage improved appetite, better sleep and recuperation, which all help overall recovery and improved immune response.