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Hypnotism ‘speeds up cancer op recovery and cuts chance of it returning’
By Fiona Macrae Mail Online
UPDATED: 08:06, 14 June 2011
Mesmerising: Women undergoing breast cancer operations under hypnosis recovered more quickly
Hypnotising women undergoing breast cancer surgery could speed their recovery and reduce the odds of the disease returning, experts believe.
They say using a combination of hypnotism and local anaesthetic to put patients under also allows quicker discharge from hospital and leaves patients more satisfied overall.
However, the technique is recommended only for operations in which surgeons do not tug at flesh and patients must be ‘motivated’.
The recommendations come from Belgian anaesthetists who already routinely put patients having breast and thyroid operations in pain-relieving trances.
To prove the technique’s worth, they carried out studies on two groups of patients.
The first involved 78 breast cancer patients, scheduled for ops which included removing part of the breast.
Eighteen of the women had the hypnosis, combined with a local anaesthetic, which only numbed the chest area. The others had a general anaesthetic that knocked them out completely.
Those that were hypnotised spent five or six minutes more under the surgeon’s knife but needed fewer powerful pain-relieving drugs when recovering afterwards.
They were also discharged nearly a day earlier, on average, the European Anaesthesiology Congress heard.
There may be another important benefit to cancer patients.
Professor Fabienne Roelants, of the Universite Catholique de Louvain, or UCL, in Brussels, said: ‘In addition to reducing drug use and hospital stay time, being able to avoid general anaesthesia in breast cancer surgery is important because we know that local anaesthesia can block the body’s stress response to surgery and therefore reduce the possible spread (of the tumour).’
In the second study, 54 patients had part, or all, of their thyroid gland removed.
Once more, 18 underwent the gentler option of hypnosis and a local anaesthetic.
Their operations took about 20 minutes longer but recovery was quicker and the amount of time spent in hospital was shorter.
Professor Roelants said: ‘There is still a lot of debate around the exact mechanism that allows hypnosis to reduce pain perception, but what it absolutely clear is that it does so.
‘The result is that one third of thyroidectomies and a quarter of all breast cancer surgery carried out at the UCL hospital are performed under local anaesthetic with the patient under hypnosis.’
In a trance: Those that were hypnotised spent five or six minutes more under the surgeon’s knife but needed fewer powerful pain-relieving drugs when recovering afterwards
The conference heard that for hypnosis to work, the patients have to be motivated, ready to co-operate and trust their doctors.
It could also be used on some knee, hernia, eye, ear, nose and throat ops, as well as in plastic surgery and when removing a woman’s eggs ahead of IVF treatment.
Study co-author Dr Christine Watremez, said: ‘Although there are special precautions to be taken – for example, only the hypnotherapist should talk to the patient during the procedure and should avoid negatives, which unconsciousness cannot handle, and the surgeon needs to be gentle, avoid any tugging in his movements, and be able to remain cool in all circumstances – it is a straight forward procedure and appreciated by the patients.
‘To date there are few publications about the use of hypnosis in surgery, and we hope that, by contributing to the body of evidence on its efficacy, our research will encourage others to carry out this procedure to the advantage of all concerned.’
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