Hypnosis effective against cancer

By Mariana González

Patients with different types of cancer have experienced an improvement in their quality of life and pain relief through the practice of hypnotherapy that has been tested for some months at the Old Civil Hospital of Guadalajara, in western Mexico.

Dr. Esther Cisneros, specialist in psychotherapy and hypnosis at the hospital, says that because they have applied this therapy known as “imaginary hypnosis” they have noticed that people have a better adaptation and management of their disease.

The specialist details that they have started an investigation to see the results and if this impacts on the quality of life of the patient, on their self-efficacy and on the activation of it. “That is to say the knowledge that patients have about the management of their disease, and if there is the confidence to be able to handle them properly and make the right decisions with their doctor,” she reveals.

José “N” remains in one of the rooms where patients receive chemotherapy. The cap he carries on his head does not hide the pain that is drawn on his face. He suffers from sarcoma, a type of cancer that affects soft tissues, according to the diagnosis that doctors gave him a couple of months ago.

In a low voice he tells the therapist that since he learned about his condition, he does not stop wondering why and if the therapy will work to save him.

His legs hurt and his hands are closed in fist. Almost without hesitation he accepts when the therapist offers to subject him to hypnosis.

José “N” closes his eyes and the specialist speaks in his ear. Little by little your body becomes less rigid.

His hands are loose and his face no longer shows such a hard gesture. After a while he opens his eyes and at least has the strength to sketch a smile while thanking.

Hypnotherapy is also known as Ericksonian hypnosis, in honor of the American psychotherapist Milton Erickson, creator of this technique that is increasingly accepted in medical practice and in palliative care.

It consists of taking the patient to a state of relaxation to evoke pleasant moments or situations that help him generate endorphins and make the pain decrease, explains Cisneros.

With the help of the psychotherapist, the patient performs an exercise in guided imagery where he may be in an altered state of consciousness but never loses it.

“Rather focus your attention on a time in your life that has been pleasant, relaxing, stimulating,” says the specialist.

With this, it is sought to bring back to him all the emotions, all the endorphins that were generated at that moment so that there is a better response of the immunological level, and obviously lower the stress.

The president of the Volunteers Against Cancer Foundation says that they chose to do this exercise during chemotherapy to help them change their attitude towards this type of treatment.

“We realized that many of them suddenly take chemotherapy as something negative, rather than something positive because of the side effects, but chemotherapy saves their lives,” he says.

And he asserts that therapeutic attachment is important, “we want you to see it as an ally, as something that will save your health and lower your levels of anxiety, so that there will be fewer side effects,” he says.

Each week a handful of volunteers specializing in hypnotherapy offer service to patients who come to the hospital on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

It is common for psychotherapists to ask them to imagine that they paint themselves in a color and that they enter their body to cleanse malignant cells.

Less than half an hour is enough to achieve relaxation and a state of tranquility that lasts even several days.

That is another benefit of the therapy, says the specialist, who is on the way to qualitatively measuring how hypnotherapy has affected collateral effects such as anxiety and depression that usually attack cancer patients.

The group of volunteers began to apply the technique to a group of women with breast cancer, but soon extended the project to people with colon cancer, lymphedema, or ovarian cancer.

“You can focus when you have a specific pain in some part of the body, even anxiety or depression,” he argues.

In a second stage, the specialist intends to implement hypnotherapy in children with cancer to help achieve their well-being.

“Children have a special way of making hypnotic suggestion, they respond very well because there are no fears, there is confidence and if you make a good empathy they are very transparent and they do not put up those barriers,” he advances.