Medical hypnosis and interleukin-1 beta in breast cancer survivors

by Absenger, Werner, Ph.D., SAYBROOK UNIVERSITY, 2015, 154 pages; 3724904


Evidence suggests that cancer-related sickness behavior is a cytokine-induced inflammatory symptom cluster. Sickness behavior symptoms can be fatigue, reduced appetite, sleep disorders, altered mood, “chemo brain” and major depressive episodes. Sickness behavior can manifest during and after cancer treatment, negatively impacting the quality of life of cancer patients and survivors long after active treatment.

The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to conduct research to refine current understanding of medical hypnosis’ effects on interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) expression in breast cancer survivors (N = 24).

Breast cancer survivors were randomly assigned to receive medical hypnosis (n = 15) or white noise sham hypnosis (n = 9). Saliva to assess IL-1β was collected at baseline and following hypnosis interventions. Research participants provided answers to a 2-question pre-hypnosis and an 8-question post-intervention questionnaire to gain a better understanding of the research participants’ subjective experiences of medical hypnosis.

The Stanford Hypnotic Clinical Scale for Adults (SHCS:A) was used to assess research participants' hypnotic ability.

Data analysis, using Wilcoxon signed rank test, revealed that in research participants (n = 14) with high hypnotic ability, median IL-1β expressed in pg/ml was significantly higher in the post-intervention condition (Mdn = 809.65) when compared to the baseline condition (Mdn = 312.05), T = 104, p = .001, r = -.61.

Recorded interviews were transcribed, read/re-read, and labeled. Analysis of the data revealed that the white noise sham hypnosis was just as well received as the medical hypnosis session.

The Medical Hypnosis in Breast Cancer Survivorship (MHBCS) study adds to the hypnosis literature that could assist in deconstructing medical hypnosis into its effective components. The results of the MHBCS study raised additional questions pertaining to the role of placebo in developing credible sham hypnosis.

Despite the limitations of this small MHBCS research project, it is shown here for the first time that medical hypnosis may play a valuable role in the sequela of cytokine-induced sickness behavior in breast cancer survivors. The study’s results fill a gap in current medical hypnosis literature demonstrating medical hypnosis as a change agent of breast cancer survivors' cytokine milieu.

AdviserEric Willmarth
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsBehavioral psychology; Alternative medicine; Oncology
Publication Number3724904

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