Monday, January 26, 2009

Can Hypnosis Help Hot Flashes?

According to recent research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, hypnosis can indeed help reduce hot flashes and night sweats among women undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Hot flashes are a significant problem for many breast cancer patients. Many women must take estrogen-blocking drugs like tamoxifen for years after breast cancer treatment, but hot flashes can be so severe that some women make a decision to not continue those medications. Hot flashes in women are related to decreases in estrogen, but can also be triggered by hot weather, spicy food or alcohol.

The research team randomly assigned 60 breast cancer survivors to hypnosis once a week for five weeks or no treatment at all . The 50 minute hypnosis sessions involved helping the patient to reach a deeply relaxed state, and then offering suggestions for mental imagery to help her relax and feel cool. Imagery such as swimming in a cool mountain pond or floating in a gentle river was used. Women also received instructions on how to practice hypnosis on their own.

Among the 51 women who completed the study, those who had hypnosis reported a 68% reduction in the severity and frequency of their hot flashes. This translated to 4.39 fewer hot flashes a day, on average, for women in the hypnosis group, while there was little change in the control group.

The new findings are particularly important because estrogen therapy, the current best treatment for hot flashes, is off limits for most women who have had breast cancer. The hypnosis treatment seems to help reduce stress by helping women to relax, and may also give them a sense of control that allows them to keep their body temperature more stable.

photo by zoomar

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