Hypnosis Eases Breast Cancer Biopsy Pain

The technique has no side effects, researchers add

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WEDNESDAY, Nov. 29, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- An old technique, hypnosis, can help reduce a woman's pain and anxiety during breast biopsy, a new study finds.

"The findings show that nonpharmacologic means can be very powerful -- without side effects," researcher Dr. Elvira V. Lang, associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, said in a prepared statement.

The study included 236 women treated at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who were randomly assigned three types of care while undergoing outpatient large-core needle biopsy (LCNB). Seventy-six of the women received standard care; 82 received structured "empathetic attention" from a person specifically assigned to be responsive to the women's needs; and 78 of the women induced self-hypnotic relaxation under instruction from a trained research assistant.

The women in the hypnosis group were instructed to roll their eyes upward, close their eyes, breathe deeply, focus on a sensation of floating, and imagine a pleasant setting.

Before the start of their biopsies, all the women had heightened anxiety levels. During the procedure, anxiety increased significantly in the standard care group, did not change in the empathy group, and decreased significantly in the hypnosis group.

All three groups reported pain during the procedure, but the women in the empathy and hypnosis groups reported less pain than those in the standard care group. The researchers also found that the hypnosis group had the shortest procedure times and lowest cost.

The study was to be presented Wednesday in Chicago at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

"The results extend prior assumptions about mind-body interventions, in that self-hypnotic relaxation can be learned very quickly right on the procedure table without additional cost, challenging the notion that extensive office visits or preparation are necessary," Lang said.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about preparing for a breast biopsy.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Nov. 29, 2006


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