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If you are scheduled for breast surgery (biopsy, lumpectomy or mastectomy)
or you are undergoing post-surgical breast cancer treatment, hypnosis
is an excellent complementary therapy that can enhance the positive effects
of various therapies.* Using hypnotherapy in combination with your medical
breast cancer treatment will make you feel more empowered and in control
of your care, and it will help you maximize your overall wellness.
The power of the subconscious mind can be a potent ally in healing from surgery
and recovering from breast cancer, for it is the subconscious mind that controls
automatic body processes, including immune function and pain perception.
Additionally, the subconscious mind is the source of all emotions, which
also makes hypnosis a logical choice for dealing with the emotional aspects
of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Hypnosis for breast cancer treatment can help with the following
Pre-Surgical Preparation: Numerous studies in medical journals have shown
that people who prepare for surgery using hypnosis generally have fewer
complications, heal faster and have less post-operative pain. Hypnosis will
help you feel calm, relaxed and positive before, during and after surgery.
Usually, the hypnosis therapy is geared toward making positive suggestions
to your subconscious regarding your surgery and its outcome, as well as teaching
you how to effectively manage pre-surgery stress.
When we see pre-surgical clients in our hypnosis practice, we give them a
CD to play before and immediately after surgery (and with headphones during
surgery, if their surgeon permits). The CD contains soothing music, relaxing
imagery and positive suggestions to reassure the client's subconscious mind
that the surgery will go smoothly and that their body will heal quickly,
with as little discomfort as possible.
The results of pre-surgical hypnosis can be quite amazing. Patients frequently
report that they needed very little pain medication and that they were back
on their feet very quickly after surgery. I recently spoke with a client
with whom I had worked before her major abdominal surgery. After her surgery,
her surgeon told her he would order a narcotic pain killer. She told him
to hold off on the narcotics because she was not in much pain. In fact, she
required only ibuprofen and she was up and walking around just two hours
after her surgery! Needless to say, her doctor was amazed.
Any surgery can be stressful, but breast surgery that may indicate a need
for follow-up breast cancer treatment can be extremely stressful for
any woman. In our practice, hypnosis for breast cancer surgery focuses
specifically on this extreme stress. The calmer you stay before the surgery,
the more resources your body has to heal itself as quickly as possible.
Follow-Up Treatment If Cancer Is Detected: If you require follow-up radiation
and/or chemotherapy as part of your breast cancer treatment, hypnosis
can teach you how to feel more relaxed and manage your stress. A growing
body of evidence suggests that chronic stress and the cascade of stress hormones
it produces can interfere with the proper functioning of the immune system.
An immune system which is as healthy as it can be (given the specific treatment)
is critically important during breast cancer treatment.
When we work with breast cancer clients in our practice, we teach them
relaxation, self-hypnosis and stress management techniques. We also teach
our clients how to use mental imagery to encourage their immune system to
work together with their medical therapies in order to maximize the benefits
of their breast cancer treatment. For example, we may teach a client
to visualize her immune system attacking and killing the cancer cells, or
surrounding and transforming the cancer cells into something harmless. The
visualization work for each client's breast cancer treatment is always
tailored to her needs and the way her imagination works.
If your breast cancer treatment creates side effects, including nausea, hypnosis
can help you minimize those side effects. And if your breast cancer
treatment creates body image issues, hypnosis can also help you feel
good about your body again. Each woman is different, both in her needs and
in her physical and emotional reactions to the breast cancer treatment
and its side effects. Accordingly, each woman's hypnosis sessions will need
to be tailored specifically to her requirements and goals.
Whether you are scheduled to undergo breast surgery to determine if you need
follow-up breast cancer treatment, or you are already undergoing breast
cancer treatment, hypnosis can complement your medical treatment in multiple
*Hypnosis is not a substitute for medical breast cancer treatment. Rather,
it is an excellent complement to standard medical breast cancer treatment.
Hypnosis works with doctors, not against them. Do not discontinue medical
breast cancer treatment when you begin hypnotherapy.
Loretta Sernekos, Ph.D., is a Certified Hypnotherapist in private practice
in Cherry Hill, NJ and Philadelphia, PA. You can visit her hypnosis practice
for more information and audio podcasts. For additional hypnosis information
and articles, both modern and antiquarian, visit
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