Written by Katja Boehm, Markus Horneber and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated April 29, 2016


Does it work?

Due to the challenges of applying blinding, it is difficult to test the efficacy of hypnotherapy. The studies included in this summary therefore test the effectiveness of hypnotherapy.

Systematic reviews

One clinical review of medical research on hypnotherapy and relaxation therapies specifically for cancer patients was published in 1999.(12)The review concludes that "there is strong evidence from randomised trials of the effectiveness of hypnosis and relaxation for cancer related anxiety, pain, nausea, and vomiting, (adverse effects of chemotherapy) particularly in children." This review, however, only included three reviews, two randomised clinical trials and one NIH Technology Assessment, all published before 1999.

Clinical trials

A total of 22 randomised clinical trials and two controlled clinical trials report results of hypnotherapy used by cancer patients.(3,9,13-33) They include studies on hypnotherapy for anticipatory nausea and vomiting during medical procedures, cancer-related or treatment-related pain and other similar symptoms. The main results of the studies are described in Tables 1, 2 and 3.

The results of hypnotherapy interventions for anticipatory nausea and vomiting (ANV, n=6) during medical procedures suggest that a significant reduction of nausea was achieved in six studies, a reduction of emesis in five and a reduction of antiemetic use in one of the trials included (see Table 1).

Of the ten studies included in cancer-related pain, eight showed a significant reduction of pain, whereas another eight also showed a reduction of anxiety or pain-related anxiety when comparing the hypnotherapy group with the control groups (see Table 2). 

With regards to studies on other cancer-related symptoms (n=7), two studies showed that hypnotherapy has the ability to improve symptoms of hot flashes (one study involved a combination with gabapentin), and another study showed improvements of radiotherapy-associated fatigue when combined with CBT (see Table 3). 


Katja Boehm, Markus Horneber, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Hypnotherapy [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Mind-body-interventions/Hypnotherapy. April 29, 2016.

Document history

Revised in January 2016 by Markus Horneber.
Fully updated and revised in September 2014 by Katja Boehm.
Prevsiously updated and revised in August 2012 by Katja Boehm.
Summary first published in September 2009, authored by Katja Boehm.



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