The Role of Hypnosis in Cancer Care


Purpose of Review

This paper reviews the current evidence-base for the use of hypnosis as an adjunct treatment for common cancer-related symptoms and side effects, including those experienced during treatment, as well as long-term and late effects. First, a general description and history of medical hypnosis in cancer care is provided, followed by a review of the latest evidence across a range of common symptoms.

Recent Findings

The evidence suggests that hypnosis may help treat symptoms of nausea and vomiting in breast cancer patients, manage pain in a variety of contexts, and also reduce levels of anxiety and overall distress around surgical and medical procedures, both in children and adults. Emerging research shows promise for treating hot flashes in women with breast cancer.


The research in this area would benefit from assessing populations beyond women with breast cancer, including late-stage disease, using more rigorous study designs, following published reporting guidelines and better describing and standardizing interventions.

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Dr. Carlson holds the Enbridge Research Chair in Psychosocial Oncology, co-funded by the Canadian Cancer Society Alberta/NWT Division and the Alberta Cancer Foundation, and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) Innovative Clinical Trials Mentorship Chair which funds the TRACTION (Training in Research and Clinical Trials in Integrative Oncology) program. Dr. Subnis is supported by the Enbridge Research Chair in Psychosocial Oncology. Dr. Subnis, Kirsti Toivonen, Michelle Flynn, and Julie Deelmans are supported in part by the CIHR SPOR TRACTION program. Kirsti Toivonen receives funding from a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Doctoral Award and an Izaak Walton Killam Pre-Doctoral Scholarship. Michelle Flynn receives funding from a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Masters Award.

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Correspondence to Linda E. Carlson.

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Linda E. Carlson, Kirsti Toivonen, Michelle Flynn, Julie Deleemans, Katherine-Anne Piedalue, Emma Tolsdorf, and Utkarsh Subnis declare they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Carlson, L.E., Toivonen, K., Flynn, M. et al. The Role of Hypnosis in Cancer Care. Curr Oncol Rep 20, 93 (2018).

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  • Hypnosis
  • Cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Quality of life
  • Hot flashes
  • Mind-body therapies
  • Integrative oncology