Cancer patients suffer from a variety of distressing symptoms. The most distressing of these is severe pain. The medical team seek to control this by using a variety of medications. Unfortunately in some patients even powerful painkillers are not effective. In some patients the addition of an antidepressant drug will prove useful. However patients who do not respond to these measures often find that hypnosis is extremely helpful in controlling the pain.
Other very distressing symptoms include breathlessness, vomiting, skin irritation, out bursts of anger, and depression. Where one or more of these symptoms fail to respond to medication it may be very helpful to use hypnosis to reduce their severity. This is achieved by alternating the experience of the distressing symptom with a special place under conditions of hypnosis.
Difficulty in sleeping is a common problem for cancer patients. The first line of approach is to prescribe sleeping tablets. For many people this is an effective form of treatment. However, for those patients who do not wish to take sleeping tablets or have found them ineffective hypnosis can be invaluable.
The approach to insomnia is somewhat different from that used in pain control: in this instance the patient is given strong suggestions of sleep while hypnotised and is trained in self-hypnosis. The suggestion is made that the patient can learn to go from the waking state through hypnosis into sleep. The great advantage of this approach is that it does not necessitate the use of sleeping tablets at all.
Some cancer patients find that during the relaxation of hypnosis they are able to visualise scenes which in physical and practical terms it would be impossible to achieve. For example a patient who is unable to travel may go on an imaginary holiday and during the hypnosis may be able to feel that they are actually there in the holiday location.
Occasionally a patient expresses the wish to actually travel and has been given permission by the medical team to undertake such a journey but is apprehensive about doing so. Rehearsing each stage of the holiday including the outward and homebound journeys under hypnosis can be of great help in preparing the patient.
Prior to chemotherapy patients often develop nausea and may even vomit, hypnosis has been shown to be an extremely effective way of counteracting these symptoms.
When conventional forms of treatment have been unsuccessful, hypnosis has proved to be an effective alternative form of treatment.
For 10 years Kraft worked with Cancer patients at Edenhall Marie Curie Centre in London.