Hypnosis Helps Control Hot Flashes

Hot flashes can make life hell for women going through menopause. And they'e especially torturous for those who are being treated for, or who have just finished treatment for, breast cancer. So the federal government funded a five-week study at Baylor University in which 51 survivors of breast cancer were divided into two groups - one of 26 women who were given about an hour of hypnosis five times a week, and another of 25 women who served as a control group. All of the women had no further sign of cancer and were experiencing up to 14 daily hot flashes - in which a woman's heart rate skyrockets, she goes into a sweat, and then is racked by the chills.

In the first group, the hypnosis sessions emphasized the suggestion of coolness and relaxation. After each session, researchers coached the women on how to continue using visual relaxation techniques at home. "The hypnosis-group women had a 68 percent decrease in hot flashes (about four fewer per day)", said Gary Elkins, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor.

They also experienced less anxiety, insomnia and depression, according to the report, which appeared in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and which was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The findings have special significance because they point to a way to control hot flashes without hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The latter involves giving women estrogen to replace that lost by the menopausal or post-breast cancer woman. But estrogen has been shown to increase the risk of new tumor growth.


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