Cancer (procedure distress): Hypnotherapy


Despite advances in anaesthesia and developments in the management of cancer-related procedures, children with cancer (and their parents) regard procedure-related pain from interventions such as lumbar punctures (LPs) or bone marrow aspirations (BMAs), as one of the most difficult and distressing aspects of having cancer. Hypnosis is a procedure in which a therapist suggests that a client experiences changes in sensation, perception, thought and behaviour. It has been used in a variety of clinical settings.

To systematically review the research evidence on the effectiveness of hypnosis for procedure-related pain and distress in paediatric cancer patients

Comprehensive searches of the following databases were conducted to March 2005:

  • Major biomedical and nursing databases: ClNAHL, CENTRAL (Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials), The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and DARE (Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects), EMBASE, MEDLINE (and PubMed) and PsycINFO
  • Specialist databases: AMED, CISCOM.

Efforts were also made to identify unpublished and ongoing research via the National Research Register (UK), (US), and experts in the field. Search strategies included terms for hypnosis and cancer. Relevant research was systematically categorised by study type and appraised according to study design. Clinical commentaries were obtained for each study included in the review.

Seven randomised controlled clinical trials (RCTs) and one controlled clinical trial were found. A lack of relevant qualitative research studies was identified. Studies report positive results including statistically significant reductions in pain and anxiety for children undergoing bone marrow aspirations or lumber punctures. However a number of methodological limitations were identified such as lack of information on randomisation. Studies were small but included comparison against other therapies and no treatment. Heterogeneity between patient samples and interventions made comparison between studies difficult. No adverse effects were reported in the studies included in this review.

Studies located
Systematic review:        1 (of controlled and uncontrolled studies)
RCT:                             7
CCT:                             1
No relevant qualitative studies were located.

Hypnosis has the potential to be a clinically useful intervention for procedure-related pain and distress in paediatric cancer patients.

Research Recommendations

  • Further research into the acceptance and effectiveness of hypnosis for procedure related pain in children and adults in the UK is suggested.
  • Feasibility and safety of hypnosis for paediatric cancer patients should also be addressed.

Note This review has now been published. Abstract on Pubmed at


Cancer (procedure distress)


Search and Appraisal Methods

The Evidence


Full Report

Last updated on29 April, 2011 - 12:23
Created on27 April, 2011 - 19:40