Clinical hypnotherapy and cancer treatment

Cancer has been appearing a lot in the world news and media lately, especially since the news broke of King Charles III and Catherine HRH The Princess of Wales both suffering from cancer.


The World Health Organization (WHO) states the following:

"The cancer burden continues to grow globally, exerting tremendous physical, emotional and financial strain on individuals, families, communities and health systems. Many health systems in low and middle-income countries are least prepared to manage this burden, and large numbers of cancer patients globally do not have access to timely quality diagnosis and treatment. In countries where health systems are strong, survival rates of many types of cancers are improving thanks to accessible early detection, quality treatment and survivorship care."

Living with cancer

Daily life carries on around treatment, but often things you could cope with normally can feel overwhelming, on top of what you are already going through. Routines can change, there can be a lot of extra organising to do around appointments and extra things to remember. You may be looking forward to reaching the end of treatment but feel like your experience has changed you, and wonder how you will cope.

Dealing with side effects

The side effects during and after treatment will have an impact on your ability to cope emotionally and physically day-to-day. They will vary depending on the type of treatment you have and can affect how you look, how your body works, and how you feel. You may also find it harder to manage at different stages of your treatment.

Life after cancer: getting back to “normal” after treatment

Once you have finished cancer treatment, life does not suddenly go back to “normal”. In fact, life after cancer can hit hardest emotionally. The routine, people and support you’d gotten used to suddenly fall away.

Understanding cancer and depression

Finding out you have cancer can have a big impact on your mental health. Feelings of sadness, worry and fear are natural. But if these feelings get worse or last a long time it might mean you have depression. Depression is a common condition and not a sign of weakness. You are not alone. There are lots of things which can help.

Can cancer cause depression?

A cancer diagnosis can cause depression. Being told you have cancer is incredibly stressful. You might feel anxious and scared. You also have to deal with the side effects of any treatment and any changes in your life.

Depression can also be caused by changes in hormone levels. Some cancer treatments can affect these levels. These include hormone treatments for prostate and breast cancer or surgery to remove your ovaries or womb.

Understanding cancer and anxiety

Being told you have cancer can make you feel worried or scared. These feelings are a natural response to stress. They are sometimes called anxiety. But if these feelings become very hard to cope with or affect your daily life, you could have an anxiety disorder. The good news is there is lots of help and support to help you cope with anxiety.

What is health-related anxiety?

Anxiety can be brought on by stress or trauma. Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health problems. Health-related anxiety is not a specific disorder, but being told you have a serious health condition like cancer can trigger anxiety. Health anxiety is different. It is when someone spends so much time worrying about getting ill or thinking they are ill that it takes over their lives.

Coping with loneliness and isolation with cancer

Cancer can make you feel lonely and isolated. You might be struggling to connect with those close to you or feel like you have no support. It is common to feel this way. But there are things you can do to help with these feelings and we are here to support you every step of the way.

Understanding loneliness and isolation

Loneliness and isolation are not the same thing. Someone might be physically on their own and not feel lonely. However, they might feel more vulnerable than usual during their cancer treatment. Someone else could be surrounded by friends and family but feel very lonely. Both can be hard in their own way. But asking for help is the first step.

Complementary therapies for cancer

Complementary therapies for cancer are used along with mainstream medical treatments. They include things like yoga, massage and acupuncture.

Clinical hypnotherapy is a psychological therapy and treatment that may be used alongside mainstream medical treatments for cancer. Hypnosis is a psychological procedure that can help to change how you feel and act.

In hypnosis, you are put in a state of focused concentration that involves becoming less aware of your surroundings. In this state, you are more able to accept ‘suggestions’, also known as ‘invitations’. Your therapist will make suggestions that encourage you to move away from unhelpful beliefs towards more helpful beliefs. For example, if you mistakenly believe that you are a bad person, in hypnosis the therapist will give you suggestions that help to change that to a more reasonable belief that you are fine as you are.

Some therapists also use hypnosis to increase the effectiveness of other psychological treatments, or pain management. However, they may describe the treatment they are giving you by its usual name (such as CBT) rather than calling it hypnotherapy.

You can also perform hypnosis on yourself, which is called self-hypnosis.

As with many types of complementary therapy, some people with cancer use hypnotherapy to help them relax and cope with symptoms and treatment. Hypnotherapy might help some people feel more comfortable and in control of their situation.

People with cancer most often use hypnotherapy for sickness or pain. There is research and evidence that hypnotherapy helps with these symptoms. It can also help with depression, anxiety and stress.

Some doctors and dentists have hypnotherapy training. They might use this alongside conventional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Research into hypnotherapy

Some reports show that hypnosis can help people to reduce their blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and pain. Hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for drug-resistant irritable bowel syndrome, proven in randomised clinical trials. It has even been used to anaesthetise patients during surgery and speed their healing time. Clinical trials have also looked at how well hypnotherapy works for people with cancer.

How does clinical hypnotherapy support cancer treatment?

A wide range of studies and meta-analyses show statistically significant benefits. Many doctors are educated about its use and applications and are aware of its therapeutic potential as therapy. It can speed recovery, shorten hospital admissions, reduce anxiety and enhance relaxation. 

Clinical hypnotherapy is not used to cure cancer. Rather it is used to work alongside medical care, hospital care, and even palliative care, as well as medical treatments to ease symptoms of fatigue, nausea, sickness, pain, hot flashes, sleep disorders, and symptoms and side effects associated with radiation and chemotherapy.

Clinical hypnotherapy is also used to calm and relax patients and potentially replenish cells in the body. It may also help to ease pain and sickness and to alleviate other far-reaching symptoms and side effects.

Moreover, it is used to maintain a healthy and balanced mindset, and ease and alleviate any symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Can I get hypnotherapy on the NHS?

Hypnotherapy is not usually available on the NHS. To find out if you can see a hypnotherapist on the NHS in your area, ask:

  • a GP
  • your local integrated care board (ICB)

Finding a private hypnotherapist

In the UK, hypnotherapists do not have to have any specific training by law. This means hypnotherapy can be offered by people with little training who are not health professionals.

When looking for a private hypnotherapist, choose someone with a healthcare background – such as a doctor, psychologist or counsellor, and someone who has been trained extensively with a lot of experience.

If you have mental ill health or a serious illness (such as cancer), make sure they are trained in working with your condition. If you are looking for a therapist for your child, make sure they are trained to work with children.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that concern you.

If you do not have any signs or symptoms, but are worried about your risk of cancer, discuss your concerns with your doctor. Ask about which cancer screening tests and procedures are appropriate for you.

If you would like further help or assistance, do not hesitate to get in touch to ask any further questions you may have about this article and any related issues.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London W1G & Manchester M3
Written by Rebecca Jones, M.A. (DipPCH) (GHR, GHSC) GQHP (MAC)
London W1G & Manchester M3

Rebecca Jones (M.A.DipPCH) is a clinical hypnotherapist with a thriving practice in Harley St. London and a clinic on Deansgate in Manchester. Rebecca also travels extensively to clients around the world including Paris, New York, and further afield. She also provides an online hypnotherapy service and her new book will be published later this year

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