Self-Hypnosis and Quality of Life for Breast Cancer Patients:

A Pilot Study

Holly Forester-Miller, Ph.D. of Wellness Consultants International, PLLC in conjunction with the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program completed a pilot study examining the impact of self-hypnosis skills on the quality of life of patients with breast cancer. This program, titled the Healing Skills Project, was conducted jointly and funded by a grant from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (Triangle Affiliate). The intervention consisted of Dr. Forester-Miller teaching four ninety minute self-hypnosis classes to each group of women who registered for the project. Additionally, she made a self-hypnosis tape with each woman. The tape was personalized with suggestions directed toward each woman’s issues and concerns, and current treatment regime.

This pilot study was conducted with 25 women, although only 23 participants’ materials were complete, therefore N= 23. All of the women were diagnosed with breast cancer and received at least one mode of treatment (radiation 52% or chemotherapy 79%) in addition to surgery. The women’s quality of life was measured pre- and post intervention using the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy- Breast (FACT-B), Version 4. The FACT-B is a 36 item instrument designed to measure quality of life issues for breast cancer patients. Despite the small sample size, after the intervention statistically significant changes were noted on 10 of the items. Although not statistically significant, an additional 11 items showed a tendency toward change in the right direction.

In the category of Emotional Well-Being, participants were significantly less sad, less nervous, had less fear of dying and less fear of their condition growing worse, and demonstrated a tendency to be more satisfied with how they are coping with their illness. In the category of Functional Well-Being, participants were significantly more able to sleep well, more able to enjoy the things they do for fun, and are more content with the quality of their life, and demonstrated a tendency to enjoy life more. In the category of Physical Well-Being, participants demonstrated tendencies to have more energy, have less trouble meeting the needs of their family, have less pain, to be less bothered by the side effects of their treatments, to feel less ill, and to spend less time in bed. In the Additional Concerns category, participants were significantly less short of breath, had less swelling and tenderness in their arms, had less concern about the effects of stress on their illness, and demonstrated a tendency to feel more sexually attractive, to be less bothered by hair loss, and to feel more like a woman.

It should be noted that no significant changes were anticipated in the Category of Social/Family Well-Being, and none were reported. Of the 36 items on the questionnaire it was anticipated that the self-hypnosis intervention could positively impact 27 of them. Of those 27 items, significant positive results or positive tendencies were displayed for 21 of them.
Overall the women’s self report indicated self-hypnosis was very useful and that it contributed to a noticeably improved quality of life.

Holly Forester-Miller, Ph.D.

Wellness Consultants International, PLLC

3721-A University Drive

Durham, NC

(919) 403-7229