By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor
The study at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York found a 15-minute session with a psychologist had a significant impact on how well women coped with the surgery, their levels of pain afterwards and how ill they felt.
Guy Montgomery, the lead author, said hypnosis should be considered more widely as it not only helped women having surgery but it saved money.
Women spent on average 10.6 minutes less in the operating theatre because they needed less sedation and their average score for pain, nausea, fatigue, discomfort and emotional well-being was better than women who had just had a chat with a psychologist.
The study was carried out on 200 women having surgery to remove cancerous lumps rather than having a full mastectomy
The paper, published today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, said: “The present brief hypnosis intervention appears to be one of the rare clinical interventions that can simultaneously reduce both symptom burden and costs.
“Together, the combination of potential improvements in symptom burden for the hundreds of thousands of women facing breast cancer surgery each year and the economic benefit for institutions argues persuasively for the more widespread application of brief pre-surgical hypnosis.”
According to the research, women who were hypnotised had an average pain intensity score of 22.4 compared with 47.8 who did not. The hypnotised women also had a nausea score of 6.5 compared with 25.4 for the control group.
The average score for emotional upset was just 8.6 in the hypnotised women compared with 33.4 for those who were not, while the hypnotised patients cost £384.48 less than the control group to treat, mainly because they spent less time in the operating theatre.
In an accompanying editorial Dr David Spiegel, of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California, said: “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.
Dr Sarah Cant, senior policy and information officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said large studies were needed to confirm the results. She added: “This is an interesting study and anything that can help reduce the side effects of breast surgery for cancer patients is to be welcomed.
“Anyone interested in using hypnosis should discuss this with their breast care team first and ensure that they are using an appropriately trained hypnotherapist.”
12:01AM BST 29 Aug 2007